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Isolated patients to connect with family during Covid-19 via video calls

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Thousands of isolated residents and patients will be able to connect with their family and friends with video call devices during Covid-19, the government said on Thursday (April 9).

NHSX – a new government unit responsible for the digital transformation of health and social care – is working with technology firms to make this happen.

The aim is to help some of the society’s most at-risk and isolated people access vital emotional support and companionship.

As part of the project, Facebook will provide up to 2,050 of its video calling devices for free to hospitals, care homes and other settings such as hospices, in-patient learning disability and autism units.

As many as 50 devices have already been deployed to pilot sites in Surrey, with Manchester, Newcastle and London and other areas to follow, with support from Accenture.

NHSX Digital Transformation Director Iain O’Neil said: “Technology companies big and small continue to pledge their resources and expertise to support our NHS and social care system in these unprecedented times.

“We are working hard to find and develop services that meet people’s equally unprecedented needs. Technology has never been so important to providing one of life’s most essential things – the ability to communicate with the people we love regardless of where they are.”

As well as providing solutions to reducing social isolation among residents and patients, NHSX is working with a range of technology companies to support the NHS and social care system in these unprecedented times.

Additional solutions include enabling health and care staff to work remotely when they may be advised to work at home, improving communication between clinical and care teams, shifting hospital outpatients to virtual appointments, and accelerating the use of online and video consultations within GP and primary care services.

Freddy Abnousi, MD, Head of Health Technology, Facebook said: “We designed Portal to give people an easy way to connect and be more present with their loved ones. With the global pandemic and social distancing measures, the ability to stay connected is more important than ever.

“That’s why we are piloting a programme with NHSX to provide Portal devices in hospitals and other care settings to support patients  and help reduce social isolation.”

The portal devices will be delivered to care homes and other care settings across the pilot sites of Surrey and other regions, including Manchester, Newcastle, Essex and London.

The care homes and care settings involved in the pilot will be able to keep the devices free of charge.

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