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Online and phone consultations to be extended in post-virus plans

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Remote health appointments will be rolled out as part of a "return to business".

HSE chief operations officer Anne O'Connor told a Covid-19 briefing that whereas missed appointments rates had been 14pc, the remote sessions had helped reduce these to just 3pc.

There are now plans to extend these in future with remote appointments, carried out online and over the phone, made part of the general HSE service.

These types of virtual consultations had always been part of a HSE plan to develop healthcare, but Covid-19 had escalated this, Ms O'Connor said.

Some 81,000 virtual consultations had taken place in April and now 36 medical sites offered them to patients.

"We will build on this in the coming months," she said.

"People are keen to engage (remotely)."

Meanwhile emergency department admissions have increased slightly by 2pc in the past week - but figures are still 22pc down on last year.

More people are starting to visit emergency departments at their local hospitals, as Covid-19 cases decrease in the community, but figures are still way down on normal levels.

Ms O'Connor said there had been a marked increase in the number of over-75s visiting emergency departments.

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However, the figure of attendances was still down 6pc on last year.

"We are seeing the older population are presenting more in line with previous years and are being admitted more," she said.

The figures show that while many are still choosing to not attend hospital, an increased number are availing of care for non-Covid-19 related health issues.

Ms O'Connor said: "While overall, our activity is considerably lower than last year, we see older people are presenting more in line with previous years and are admitted more - that's a significant difference to March."

The HSE had encouraged the public to visit emergency departments and GPs after a substantial drop in attendances due to the fear around Covid-19.

The number attending hospital emergency units in March fell by 45pc, according to the Economic and Social Research Institute.


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