Frequently asked questions about video consultations

Background information

The Long Term Plan outlines NHS England’s commitment to transforming outpatient services, including to provide remote appointments where appropriate.

Video consultations have played an important role in the NHS response to the COVID-19 pandemic, helping NHS trusts and foundation trusts reduce the number of physical attendances at their sites and supporting the recovery of outpatient services.

These are commonly asked questions patients may have if they are asked to attend a video consultation in secondary care.

Providers can adapt the responses below to support with their communications with patients, aligning their responses to their local processes and policies, and the video consultation platform(s) they are using.

About video consultations

A video consultation is an appointment that takes place between a patient/service user and a clinician over video, as opposed to face-to-face or over the telephone.

You will receive the same quality of care as you would in a face-to-face appointment

There are lots of benefits to using video consultations, including:

• Saving patients, their families and carers time and money by removing the need to travel to an appointment
• Giving patients the flexibility to have their consultations in a place that is convenient to them
• Reducing disruption to a patient’s day, by reducing the amount of time they need to attend an appointment
• Reducing carbon emissions associated with travel
• Reducing the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, by avoiding face-to-face contact

Video consultations are suitable for many patients who do not need a physical examination and who are able to communicate via video. You will only be invited to a video consultation if your doctor or the healthcare professional in charge of your care believes it is right for you.

You do not have to accept the offer of a video consultation; you will be offered a telephone or face-to-face appointment if that is your preference.

Your consent is vital. If at any time during your video consultation you feel that you would like to end the consultation, you can say that you would like to end the video call and arrange another appointment.

Providers should include information on local support available for patients who are concerned about using video technology.

If your healthcare professional decides during your video call that you need a physical examination, you will be offered the next available face-to-face appointment.

If your condition has changed and you feel that you need to a face to-face appointment, please let us know so that we can arrange this for you.

The decision on whether your appointment will take place face-to-face, on video or by telephone, will be made by an expert clinician based on your individual care needs and preferences. If a video consultation is your preference, you should let us know and we will do our best to accommodate this.

Video consultations might not always be suitable – for example, if you need a test or physical
examination. If that is the case, you will need to attend your appointment face-to-face.

No. We understand that it may not be possible for you to attend your appointment by video or you may not want to.

If you decide not to attend a video consultation which has already been arranged, please let us know by contacting us on the number provided. We will arrange for your appointment to take place face-to-face or over the telephone.

Yes. If they are in the same location as you, it is possible to have someone with you during your video consultation. You should let your healthcare professional know if you have someone with you at the start of your appointment.

Some video consultation platforms allow multiple users to dial into the same consultation, even if they are not in the same location. You should check if this functionality is available to you.

Joining video consultations

• how patients will be informed of their appointment, whether this is by letter, text,
email or phone call
• how patients will access the video consultation platform, whether this is via a web
browser or an application.

You can access your video consultation on a smartphone, tablet or laptop/computer.

You can use your device’s inbuilt microphone and camera, but some people find they get better call quality using an external headset and web camera. You will need to be connected to the internet through Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G or an ethernet connection.

It is a good idea to test your equipment before your appointment.

Providers should explain whether patients will still be able to attend their consultation if they
are late and what the process is to reschedule their appointment if this happens.

We recommend that smartphone and tablet users, where possible, connect to a home or work Wi-Fi network to avoid mobile data charges.

Where this is not possible and you need to connect using your mobile data allowance, the amount of data and the cost will depend on your mobile network provider, the connection speed, and how many participants are on the call.

The amount of data your video consultation uses once it begins will depend on the speed of your internet connection. Data use is less on lower-speed internet connections, or on a less powerful computer, tablet, or smartphone. These factors can also reduce the overall quality of the call.

You will use more data if/when more than two people join the consultation from different locations.

You can expect that a 20 minute video consultation with two people will use around 230 MB of data on a mobile device and 450 MB on a laptop or computer but this can vary.

During the appointment

Your video consultation will be similar to a traditional face-to-face appointment. You should look at your healthcare professional’s face while you are talking, you do not need to worry about looking directly into the camera.

There is also an instant messaging function available for you to use which allows you to send typed messages if you need to (delete if not applicable).

If your healthcare professional is giving you important information, for example, about medications, dosages or exercises, you can ask them to repeat the information to make sure that you have understood correctly in the same way you would in a face-to-face appointment.

You should let your healthcare professional know straight away if you are experiencing any problems seeing or hearing them. It could be that you need to check your device has access to its camera and microphone through your device settings.

If you are unable to resolve the issue, it may be possible to finish your appointment by telephone. If this isn’t possible, your healthcare professional will let you know how to reschedule your appointment and will
offer you the choice of attending your next appointment by video, telephone or face-to-face.

Outline what the patient should do if they lose connection during their video consultation.

Reassure patients that if they have issues with the technology an alternative appointment can be arranged.

After the appointment

You may be redirected to a short survey asking you about your experience attending your video consultation.

We encourage you to complete this as it provides us with valuable feedback to improve your experience in the future. It’s helpful for us if you point out things that didn’t go well and suggest ways of improving the experience for you and other patients, as well as what you felt went well.

Include information on the security of the platform.

Describe what information is and is not stored as part of the consultation and outline what a patient should do if they have any data privacy concerns ahead of their scheduled video consultation or are concerned that their data has been breached during or after their consultation.

Useful resources

Further resources for providers to support the use of video consultations in secondary care settings can be found on the video consultations in secondary care FutureNHS workspace.

There are also guides for patients available, including translations of those documents.