GPs must fully consider the challenges associated with virtual appointments and ensure risks such as digital exclusion, online security and overall suitability of this appointment method are mitigated as far as possible, the Welsh regulator has said.
In its annual report for 2020-21, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) also highlights changes made by practices to enable face-to-face appointments. These include operating one-way systems, reducing seating in waiting areas and replacing carpets or soft fabrics with wipe clean surfaces.
Detailing GPs’ pandemic responses, HIW found significant changes made to layouts of practices to support social distancing and infection control, committed senior staff keen to provide a quality service and detailed knowledge of infection prevention and control procedures.
Practices also provided grab bags to ensure suitable equipment and PPE were readily available for clinicians making home visits.
In general, HIW saw greater flexibility in general practices, which allowed staff to have a better work/life balance. We saw some evidence to suggest that GP cluster arrangements during the pandemic had worked well. In some clusters a joint assessment service for COVID-19 had been developed, which was provided on a rota basis between GP partners of each practice to maintain staff and patient care.