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Care homes across Wales are benefiting from digital devices being delivered to them as part of a Welsh Government scheme to help residents keep in touch with friends and family, and to assist with video medical consultations

First published:
16 June 2020
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

Over the past few weeks the Digital Communities Wales: Digital Confidence, Health and Well-being Programme, delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre, has been distributing the devices to care homes in all parts of Wales, and is providing remote support and training to key workers on how to use and operate the technology with people in their care.

To date, 745 devices have been delivered to 401 care homes as part of the scheme, with 313 care homes receiving staff training on the NHS Wales Video Consulting Service.

Deputy Health and Social Services Minister Julie Morgan said: 

The coronavirus pandemic has affected all of us, and it has been particularly challenging for older people and those living in care homes who are unable to see friends and loved ones.

Technology has played a key role over the past few weeks in helping keep people in touch, and allowing medical consultations to take place without the need for visits to the GP or hospital. I’m pleased to see that digital devices have been reaching care homes, making things easier for staff and residents.

We’ve seen the use of digital technology across the NHS and social care accelerate over the past few months as a result of the pandemic. Many of the changes will be with us for the future allowing people to stay connected and improve access to services.

Derek Walker, Chief Executive at the Wales Co-operative Centre, said: 

The pace of the digital revolution in health and care has picked up dramatically as a result of this crisis. We know from experience that digital skills can transform lives and providing devices is an important part of improving digital inclusion along with good connectivity.

Our Digital Communities Wales programme has been able to provide support and training to staff so that they have the confidence, knowledge and skills to use technology themselves and help others do the same. We’re proud to be working alongside NHS Wales colleagues and TEC Cymru to help make this difference.

Case studies

1.    Millbrook Residential Home, Blackwood

A care home who has received digital devices as part of the tablet loan scheme is Millbrook Residential Home in Blackwood. The devices have enabled the home to have video consultations with a GP.

The residential home’s local GP, Dr Rizwan Hussain said:

Remote video consultations have quickly become a game changer for managing care homes patients during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They have proved invaluable for assessing patients in conjunction with physiological measurements taken in the home, as well as for assessing skin lesions. Video consultations have helped to initiate treatments promptly and reduce hospital admissions.

I look forward to having three-way conversations with care home patients and their families, who may well be at a different location, in the future.

2.    Pen y Bont Care Home, Abertillery

A care home which has benefited from the new technology is Pen y Bont care home in Abertillery, Blaenau Gwent.  Resident Lillian Morgan, 84 was able to see her grandchild in Australia for the first time by using the loaned device to video call.

Amanda Reed, Activity Co-ordinator at Pen y bont Care Home, has worked at the care home for 10 years and has been amazed with the impact the digital devices have had on her residents in such a short period of time. She said:

Before the loan of the tablets, our older residents were only able to keep in touch with their family and friends through their mobile phone with apps like Messenger and WhatsApp. Even though this was a great benefit to most of them, some residents with poor eyesight found it too difficult to look at the small screen or didn’t have the latest software to download the apps. The loan of these two tablets and additional support from Digital Communities Wales has been a lifeline for the residents and their loved ones, helping them stay better connected during this stressful time.

We’ve also started to use the tablet devices to come up with new daily activities within the home, looking at old photos of our area and checking out local attractions to visit in the future. Last week we used the tablets to celebrate Sir Tom Jones’ 80th birthday. We did a virtual quiz about him and watched his music videos from over the years so we could see how he has changed over time. This type of activity just wouldn’t have been possible before.

3.    Glan Rhos Nursing Home, Brynsiencyn, Isle of Anglesey

During this pandemic Glan Rhos nursing home in Isle of Anglesey has had to rely on digital technology to maintain the well-being of its residents.

Helen Omber Williams of Glan Rhos nursing home, said:

The tablet loan scheme has enabled our staff to be able to connect more of the residents with their families, which has a wonderful impact. Over the past couple weeks we’ve hosted live video concerts from the lounge for friends and family and held regular video calls with loved ones.

The residential home’s local GP is not coming into the home currently and he is instead running regular video link consultations with the residents and our nurses on site.

Here are some further comments the nursing home has received from the residents’ families around the impact of the new technology being introduced into the home:

It means so much that I can see my mother and being able to speak to her is amazing.
After not being able to speak to my father for so long you have made my day.
You are all amazing in Glan Rhos, being able to see mum I’m so grateful.
After a bad week, speaking to my mother means so much. I’m so so grateful.
Dad looking so well and alert today. The singing must of made is day. Thank you all so much.