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Following successful pilots in London, EMIS Health has released free video consultation software to all of its 5,200 community pharmacy customers.

Pharmacies who sign up for its Patient Access for Professional service – available free for 12 weeks – can now offer patients secure video consultations in a move to help them protect staff and patients during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mike Patel, director and superintendent pharmacist at the Pearl Chemist group in South London, took part in the scheme’s successful pilot. He said the software has important benefits for staff and patient safety.

He said: “It’s about stopping people attending the pharmacy and reducing the infection risk.

“We have had patients coming in who are possibly COVID-19 positive or have family members isolating, but there is no route for them to talk to you. Video consultations has made life much easier – and the software was quite straightforward to use.

“GPs are doing it, so there’s no reason why we can’t.”

Video consultations can be used anywhere pharmacists would normally meet face to face to give clinical advice – including Patient Group Direction services such as weight loss and smoking cessation advice.

Mr Patel, who runs 19 branches across South London, is confident he will continue with video consultations beyond the pandemic and says they will be particularly useful for vulnerable patients who struggle to come out for appointments. “There is a massive health population who can’t come out,” he said.

Shanel Raichura, Clinical Director at EMIS Health, said: “Community pharmacists are a vital frontline service and they have never been needed as much as they are during this pandemic.

“This new digital tool will help them to protect themselves and their staff and to extend the services they offer, reducing demand on other parts of the NHS. I would urge every pharmacist to give it a try.”

Full support materials will be made available online, to help pharmacists get started quickly.

Patients access the video consultations via the free Patient Access app, which has 8.4m registered users.

Pharmacies that wish to sign-up for the offer should visit https://pro.patientaccess.com/register.

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