Care homes are set to receive thousands of iPads to help keep residents connected with loved ones.

The Department of Health and Social Care will provide up to 11,000 iPads to care homes to reduce the risk of loneliness and reduce the risk of infection from people going into homes as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

It will also mean staff can easily access digital health services including virtual appointments for residents.

Each iPad will be ready to use straight out of the box and include a 12-month support package. Care homes without full access to Wifi will also receive a data-enabled SIM card.

Health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “With coronavirus cases rising the need for infection control measures and social distancing is more important than ever for those living and working in care homes. However, I know how challenging the current situation is for staff, residents and families, particularly when loved ones can’t visit.

“These tablets will be the gateway for so many residents to connect with loved ones and allow staff to quickly access digital NHS services and information, to help stop Covid-19 outbreaks in their tracks.”

As well as pre-bundled software, the iPads will have easy-access links to NHSmail, the MS Teams app, the Digital Social Care website and Apple Care.

The rollout of the iPads, chosen as they are the only device that enables access to residents summary care records, will be supported by new guidance to enable authorised and trained care staff to order regular medications on behalf of their care home residents online.

NHSX chief, Matthew Gould, added: “Technology has huge potential to improve the lives of care home residents, from helping them stay close to their own families to fixing an online consultation with their GP.

“NHSX is committed to ensuring we realise the true potential of technology in patient and public health and this mass-rollout of tablets is just one of the steps the NHS is taking to support the sector ahead of winter.”

Staff across social care are already embracing new ways of working including increasing use of digital solutions to help them support those in their care. NHSX is working with local authorities, social care providers, and NHS regions to ensure that ahead of winter care providers in England can access healthcare information and have the technology and digital tools they need to support their residents.

The announcement follows the launch of the Adult Social Care Winter Plan, which includes a £546 million infection control fund and free PPE for providers until March.