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Ascot Medical Centre


Launching remote GP visits to make consultations safer during the COVID-19 pandemic

To protect their residents from the COVID-19 virus, UK care homes began closing their doors to visitors shortly after the UK entered lockdown. For GPs who conduct regular rounds in care homes this presented a challenge. How could they continue to provide healthcare services to residents without risking taking the virus into care homes? We worked with UK GP surgery Ascot Medical Centre to enable remote surgery visits, getting the new service up and running within just one week. With our help, they were able to effectively face the COVID-19 pandemic while continuing to provide other vital care when it has been needed. Now, GPs in this surgery are able to focus on providing critical care to the people who have been put on hold while they responded to the pandemic.

Key successes

  • hand on heart

    Enabled GPs to start conducting remote consultation within just one week, helping cut virus transmission

  • responsive

    Used our experience of setting up digital healthcare to help GPs and care homes use new technology confidently and effectively

  • list

    Provided a template for remote consultations within one month, which could help more GP surgeries nationwide work more safely through the pandemic

  • people

    Helped accelerate the uptake of digital solutions, enabling GPs to use their time and expertise more efficiently

Accelerating digital ambitions

In the UK, GP surgeries are looking for ways to provide better care to their patients. Many are focusing on creating a ‘digital front door’. This is a way for patients to access GP services via an online consultation in the first instance, only attending the surgery in person afterwards if the doctor deems necessary.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented a unique opportunity to accelerate these plans – with Ascot Medical Centre stepping forward to ask for help with conducting remote consultations for care home residents.

Capitalising on existing technology solutions

Like all GP practices, the surgery already had the technology it needed – a computer and Microsoft Teams. Microsoft had made its collaboration and communication platform, Microsoft Teams, available free to all NHS organisations as the pandemic emerged. Also, it had released new functionality called Virtual Visits, which provides self-service appointment scheduling for patients and richer controls within Teams for GPs when hosting virtual consultations.

For GPs and carers looking after care home residents, it was a matter of learning how to use the solution effectively. We used our wide experience of implementing digital healthcare solutions to make it happen.

We plotted the steps involved in conducting a doctor’s round to identify the activities the technology needed to enable. These include establishing the video link between doctor and patient and capturing doctor’s notes during the consultation. Patients were able to access technology provided by the care home but weren’t required to have physical contact with the device, ensuring their safety.

We also looked at what outcomes remote consultations needed to deliver. For example, consultations must be secure to protect patient privacy, and doctors must be able to call up patient care records on the same screen they are using to communicate with the patient.


Within just one week, we had developed a practical quick start guide to help surgeries and care homes set up and run remote consultations, using an everyday digital device loaded with the Microsoft Teams app. As a result, Ascot Medical Centre was able to conduct video consultations for care home residents almost immediately – just as the pandemic approached its peak and infection control became even more urgent.

We worked with teams at NHSX, the body responsible for the digital transformation of health and social care in the UK, to confirm the approach was also suitable for national adoption.

The immediate impact of our work has been to help Ascot residents across care homes access GP services through the pandemic more safely.

Going forward, the impact will be even bigger. Remote consultations and online collaboration can help GPs work more efficiently by eliminating time spent travelling between different settings. They allow GPs to concentrate in-person consultations on patients who are in most need. For many of the 300 million+ GP appointments that take place in NHS surgeries every year, remote consultations could soon become the new norm.

The speed at which PA understood and responded to the challenge was impressive. They showed real insight into the nature of the GP/patient interaction and came up with a clear approach and an easy-to use-guide in a matter of days.

Dr Edward Williams, Ascot Medical Centre

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Kathryn Lewis

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PA AI expert