Elderly people in rural communities are benefiting from successful virtual clinics, which are bringing care closer to home and saving them having to travel long distances to Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor, they are also benefiting from shorter waiting times.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s CARTREF project uses telemedicine – the use of remote devices to link clinicians and patients – to allow patients at Ysbyty Alltwen, Dolgellau Hospital and Ysbyty Bryn Beryl, to consult with doctors in Ysbyty Gwynedd.

The scheme, which was shortlisted at the prestigious 2016 HSJ Value in Healthcare Awards, allows patients to access specialist guidance as close to home as possible, reducing travel and waiting times in the process.

Dr Salah Elghenzai, Care of the Elderly Consultant and Stroke Specialist, said the project is a great way to link patients living in rural communities with consultants.

He said: “The clinics were set up around three years ago as part of the Future Hospital Project which was led by the Royal College of Physicians. There were only four demonstration sites in the UK and we were the only site in Wales.

“There were many virtual clinics carried out but these were with young individuals who are active and able to use technology.

“There is a perception that older people may not be able to use technology and may not be able to find this as a good medium to review their health and review their clinical issues but we have found this project has been welcomed in our community.

“The clinics have reduced travel time for the clinician by 80 miles per clinic per week with a cost saving of £1,420 per annum.

“We have also received fantastic feedback from patients, with 100 per cent of older adult users saying they would recommend the audio-visual appointments to family and friends.”

Mrs Sally Evans, 83, from Y Ffôr, near Pwllheli, recently had her review with Dr Elghenzai through the audio-visual clinic at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl following her discharge from hospital.

She said: “This was my first experience of using the audio-visual clinic so I wasn’t too sure what to expect.

“However I was very surprised with how well it worked and having this system in place means I don’t have to go through the stress of driving to Ysbyty Gwynedd, which can be a lengthy journey with a lot of traffic on the roads.

“It was very convenient that I could have my review with Dr Elghenzai only round the corner in Ysbyty Bryn Beryl.

“I’m sure this will benefit many others similar to myself on the Llyn Pensinula and other rural communities in Gwynedd.”

Delia Roberts, Matron at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl, said the residents of the Llyn Peninsula have welcomed the audio-visual clinics at her hospital.

She said: “Those people who have used the audio-clinics here at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl to link in with clinicians at Ysbyty Gwynedd have found it very beneficial.

“The older population seem to cope very well with having their appointments over video link and are able to get their issues through to the clinicians and the clinicians are able to also get the information they need.

“It really has made a huge difference to the travel time for patients and also the clinicians.”