THE North Wales Regional Partnership Board is launching a scheme to help care home residents and hospital patients keep in touch with family and friends during the coronavirus lockdown.

365 i-Pads are expected to be delivered to care homes and hospital wards across the region next week, with more devices due to arrive soon after.

The idea grew out of a project run by the Partnership Board to provide iPads to support people in the community to help manage their health conditions and reduce social isolation.

With the outbreak of coronavirus, local authority funding was quickly redirected to enable the purchase of some iPads for virtual visiting.

The Health Board’s Procurement Team supported the project by sourcing the iPads through their supply chain within a few short days.

Macmillan have also invested so that the project can include hospital wards and hospices across the region.

The Wales Cooperative Centre was a key partner in the original project and has provided advice and support to the team to set up the iPads to make them as easy as possible to use.

There is a long-term plan in place to make sure the original project can continue and the iPads will go where the need is greatest in the community, supported by the Wales Cooperative Centre, so recipients can make the most of the new technology.

These iPads will also support the ‘Attend Anywhere’ initiative which is a remote consultation service currently being rolled out by the Health Board to GPs. Five care homes will pilot Attend Anywhere to enable remote health consultations in these homes.

The Regional Partnership Board is also working with the Welsh Government Digital Inclusion unit who are providing an additional 1,100 iPads to care homes and hospices across Wales.

Bethan Jones Edwards, Head of Regional Collaboration on behalf of the Regional Partnership Board said: “We are delighted that by bringing forward the community resilience project within our Community Services Transformation programme and bringing together funding from grants awarded to the North Wales Regional Partnership Board with Macmillan funding we have been able to move forward quickly on this project. We are distributing these to care homes and wards over the next few days.

“This will enable residents and patients to maintain contact with their families whilst they are unable to have visitors at this difficult time. This is a great example of joint working between Local Authorities, Health Board, Macmillan and the Wales Co-operative centre and also enables the Health Board to pilot its Attend Anywhere project.

The purchase of these devices has been welcomed by Dr Ambalavanan a Physician in Respiratory Medicine at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd: “As clinicians, we are all acutely aware of the wider consequences of hospitalised patients not being able to access the support of their loved ones during their illness and recovery. To ease their distress (in any small way possible), we utilise the resources that have been provided to allow patients to make video contact with their families. We have also started to communicate with families as professionals to answer their queries with the help of these devices”