Windsor GP Dr Adrian Hayter, the NHS England national clinical director for older people and integrated person centred care told a webinar on Thursday: 'The clinical service model is based on having a clinical lead and a weekly check-in.
'We are really pleased to note that the general practice response has been record in its uptake in the past couple of weeks and we have had 100% of care homes being provided with a named clinical lead - many of those have been doing lots of work already, but they are going to be building and supporting the care homes with that weekly check-in.'
Dr Hayter said that for large care homes the weekly check-in could take 'an hour or so', whereas checks may be completed with 15 minutes for smaller care homes.
Virtual care home round
NHS England has said primary care support for care homes being rolled out as part of the NHS pandemic response is not part of the network DES enhanced care in care homes specification - despite initially saying elements of the DES were being 'brought forward'.
Officials speaking during the webinar made clear that named care home leads put in place now do not have to be GPs, and that 'any suitably qualified member of the multidisciplinary team' can take on the role.
Staff in these posts are taking on 'more of a leadership role' - and clinical and medical responsibility for patients within the homes remains with their individual GP.
Dr Matt Hoghton, a GP near Bristol who works for NHSX, said in the webinar that carrying out virtual care home rounds had been challenging because of poor connectivity and IT infrastructure within care homes. He said: 'Care homes are at a very different stage of development in connectivity, they are really struggling because they don't have the IT infrastructure.'
He said NHSX had been trying to support them by rolling out NHS mail and other IT equipment, but he added: 'A lot of the homes are in buildings that have poor wifi, often the mobile phone signal is also poor.'
He said in his area a dedicated admin support team put the names of patients within homes on a list in alphabetical order before each virtual care home round, checking that no new patients who had 'slipped in' to the care home since the last check had been missed out.
'They arrange a good time with staff, and check how staff can connect. Often we are having to use a mobile phone, often the phone of a staff member.'
Dr Hoghton said the person carrying out the virtual round would go through the patients with the care home staff member noting down any issues, then go round the home using tools such as AccuRx, WhatsApp or FaceTime to speak to each patient.
'There are some benefits to using video, particularly because going to see patients wearing PPE can muffle your voice, so video can be more helpful,' he said. He advised GPs carrying out virtual care home rounds for the first time to allow themselves 'plenty of time'.
'It will take longer the first time,' he said, 'but as you gain more confidence it will be quicker, and it is becoming a valuable tool. There are still spots in homes where we can't get a signal or get the technology to work - that is a real issue for us, but we are looking at ways to address that.'