Coronavirus in Wales: Video call GP appointments 'vital'
Video calls and drive-through blood tests are helping patients to get regular check-ups during the coronavirus pandemic.
The aim is to ease pressure on the NHS, with all surgeries being encouraged to offer video calls from April.
A pilot scheme in the Aneurin Bevan health board area is to be expanded.
GP Rebecca Payne said being able to turn on a camera and see a patient was vital as face-to-face contact is limited.
While some surgeries had already offered some online services, since the coronavirus outbreak others have adapted to help those who are self-isolating and to limit the spread of the virus.
Some GPs are now offering drive-through blood testing, while pharmacies have adopted video consultations to minimise patient contact.
The new Welsh Government-backed online video consultation tool was already being used in some practices in Newport and the surrounding area.
It had been due to be rolled out across Wales later this year, but practices will be able to access the system from April.
Dr Payne said with many GPs self-isolating, the scheme was needed in all surgeries to make sure people could see patients and keep them safe.
She said doctors would use video alongside other diagnostic tools, and it was particularly useful in treating children and mental health patients.
"It can be hard, sometimes, when you are speaking to a worried parent to actually get a good impression about just how poorly the kid is," she said.
"By turning on the camera and being able to do a physical assessment of that child, it is enormously helpful," she said.
"The eye contact and the rapport you get from having the extra visual information can really make a difference in how you assess a patient with a mental health problem."
In Porthcawl, one practice is offering drive-through blood testing for patients who take the blood-thinning drug Warfarfin.
Janine David from Porthcawl Medical Centre said regular testing was crucial, despite practices having to minimise patient contact.
Nurses in protective clothing carry out the blood tests in the practice car park, on patients who stretch their arm out of the window.
Llyr Hughes, who runs three pharmacies in Gwynedd, has been advising patients via confidential video consultations.
He has been in self-isolation after family members became unwell.
"I have been phoning patients to arrange video or audio consultations with them in order to alleviate some of the pressure on my frontline pharmacists," he said.