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Prisons to virtually connect to NHS hospitals

Tech deal means prisoners will be able to virtually see NHS consultants without needing to physically attend the hospital

NHS Improvement and NHS England have signed a national deal with tech supplier Visionable to provide a video platform allowing prisons across the country to link up with NHS hospitals.

The platform will allow prisoners to “attend” their local hospital and speak to a consultant without having to physically be there.  

The system has already been in use by the NHS for a while, and its use has increased significantly during the Covid-19 pandemic. In March, a secure, encrypted version was rolled out to the first prison, enabling specialist video consultations.

Now it is being rolled out to 114 prisons and young offender institutions, 15 secure children’s homes and five immigration removal centres.

The video platform can only be activated on secure laptops with a remote key held by each prison’s own healthcare team. The team member will then join a virtual room on the platform and connect to the hospital consultant before the laptop is given to the prisoner. The platform can also be used to share information such as X-rays and scans with the prisoner.

Video consultations have increased significantly during the pandemic, particularly in primary care. Health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed last month that in the UK, 99% of GP practices now offer video consultations, compared with less than 10% before the pandemic.

Several hospitals have also embraced video visits, as well as virtual outpatient appointments.

Visionable CEO Alan Lowe said: “Virtual ways of working in healthcare have quickly become more urgent since Covid-19. But they are also a key means for transforming how people interact with their healthcare professionals in the longer term.

“This particular project, envisioned before the pandemic, is an important expansion of how the NHS has been using remote video technology to transform pathways, and will result in significant efficiency and security gains for the organisations involved. It also demonstrates how clinicians can be brought to the individual, regardless of their location.”

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