The new world of COVID-19 is affecting all of us and none more so than across our NHS family. We’re proud to be able to support our frontline colleagues to fight the pandemic. From driving recruitment of recently retired GPs who are resourcing the new COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Service, to supporting the procurement and implementation of online consultation tools to deliver Digital First Primary Care, to supplying laptops and supporting homeworking, we’d like to share a few of the ways we’ve been playing our part. And to say a huge thank you for all the exceptional work you’ve been doing at this unprecedented time.
Launching the COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Service
As the COVID-19 crisis hit, an urgent priority for the NHS 111 service was for clinical staff to work in the newly established COVID-19 Clinical Assessment Service. This service was designed to assess patients over the telephone who have already been triaged as likely to be suffering with COVID -19, who are symptomatic and have not been clearly defined as requiring an Ambulance response or to be suitable for self-care. The service needed returning clinicians who have experience and capabilities in the areas of clinical assessment and decision making appropriate to assessing the needs of a patient with COVID-19.
From a standing start on 20th March we conceptualised a service, developed the operational model, created the governance and safely recruited a growing number of clinicians for the host employer South Central Ambulance Service. Once they are recruited, we have established the 24/7 roster of clinicians to receive the incoming NHS 111 referrals in real time and conduct the clinical assessments. We established the Operations Hub which supports the clinicians for example with adjusting shifts, addressing technical issues, etc. and are working with 111 data to understand call patterns to inform the roster. We have developed a data-warehouse that has required huge amounts of effort to make accurate, and built a website to on-board applications securely from GPs wanting to offer their services.
Over the coming days the model is being extended to cover not just retired clinicians but also paramedics, nurses and pharmacists, and GPs from within general practice who are able to support the hard-pressed 111 service.
Delivering Digital First Primary Care
From supporting NHS111 to supporting online consultations, we were asked by NHSE and NHSI to help increase attendance at medical appointments via video call by working on capability and adoption across the South West as part of a nationwide programme. We rapidly deployed and aided adoption of the Attend Anywhere digital outpatients programme, working in a virtual collaborative team including NHSE/I, NHSD, technology suppliers and local Trust teams to deploy the solution, support training and provide implementation support.
As well as supporting with the delivery of online consulting tools we also lead on co-ordinating a national resource to deliver the total triage methodology adopted by NHSE/I. The national methodology supports primary care to implement best practice in using online consultations and minimising face-to-face appointments to provide the best outcomes for patients. We originally deployed a team of 2 in the South West region to support practice management, a range of online consultations and the introduction of the Attend Anywhere digital outpatients programme, and this provision is set to be increased to 45 people for our region, such is the demand for support in adopting the total triage model. #NHSVideoConsult
IT always on
COVID-19 activities require support beyond IT Services business-as-usual service levels and we have enhanced our support accordingly. In addition to standing up extended hours for all of our customers over 7 days a week we are also offering on-call support for urgent service requirements outside of normal working hours, not something we normally provide but these are exceptional circumstances.
In addition to responding to more than 3x the usual number of calls to our IT support desk as a result of almost universal homeworking, our IT teams have also been building and recommissioning thousands of additional laptops, and rolling them out to primary care and general practice. That’s as well as supporting SCW colleagues in their new remote working situations.
These are just a few of the more than 120 projects, both large and small, we have been undertaking to support our colleagues across the NHS to deliver the best outcomes for our communities and populations in these extraordinary times.