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Patients supported by technology to virtually attend hospital appointments across Lancashire and South Cumbria in response to COVID-19

Hospital services have been working together across Lancashire and South Cumbria to deliver more than 14,800 virtual clinics, totalling more than 6,000 hours, to make sure local patients get the best possible advice and support from their homes. Attend Anywhere – an online video consultation tool – is being rolled out across hospitals in Lancashire and South Cumbria for scheduled clinic appointments as part of the response to coronavirus (COVID-19) and is already receiving great feedback from staff and patients.

While all hospitals and NHS staff have been working hard to make sure both staff and patients remain safe, video consultations have enabled patient appointments to take place in their own home during the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing unnecessary physical attendances and enabling patients to receive ongoing care.

Mr Aprajay Golash, Neurosurgeon at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who has been using video and telephone consultations with patients, said: “The ability to share screens allows us to show patients their x-rays or scans for better understanding of the diagnosis and management of care. Though this cannot always replace a face-to-face consultation, for many cases video consultation may suffice to give a final opinion.”

The system has been used to allow family members and carers to join in appointments without needing to travel to hospital. Mr Golash said: “So far patients have given very positive feedback and have found the use of technology relatively straightforward. After the current COVID-19 pandemic I see this would be incorporated in the way we work in future.”

Clare Peckham, Consultant Paediatrician and Lead for Respiratory Paediatrics at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, said: “There are so many advantages from all sorts of perspectives. While video communication will never completely replace physical assessment and there will always be the need for face-to-face examination of a patient, during the current situation there are huge advantages, not in the least mitigating the risks and dangers of the unintended consequences of lockdown on our babies, children, young people and their carers.

“In Paediatrics, some children who we have seen through the video clinic have complex needs and were in the shielding category during the pandemic and needed to be seen in this way.”

Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust have introduced video consultations to help people experiencing chronic pain in their muscles or joints, and adults and expecting or new mums with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Video and telephone consultations are being rolled out in partnership across Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System within a number of departments in Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, East Lancashire Hospital NHS Trust, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

Dr Ayesha Rahim, Deputy Medical Director and Chief Clinical Information Officer at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’ve really been working hard to find innovative solutions to ensure we’re able to safely care for our patients while adhering to the Government’s social distancing rules. Many people can now attend appointments either by telephone or through an online consultation that is both secure and safe. And we are still offering face to face appointments where this is requested or where it is needed.”

Kevin McGee, Chief Executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, speaking on behalf of hospitals in Lancashire and South Cumbria said: “Whilst all NHS staff and organisations have been working incredibly hard to do everything we can to maintain everyone’s safety, we have seen some excellent examples of innovation and collaborative working which we haven’t seen before which means that we are able to continue to support patients in new ways.

“Providing almost 15,000 video and telephone consultations across all the hospital trusts shows how staff have changed their ways of working very quickly to continue to provide care for patients across Lancashire and South Cumbria.”

If you do have to go to hospital, please be assured that it is safe - NHS staff are constantly taking measure to allow people to access care safely.
For more information about Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System’s work on digital health, visit https://healthierlsc.co.uk/DigitalFuture