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Pennine Lancashire COVID service wins top national award

A team of health professionals working for NHS organisations in Pennine Lancashire and in partnership with the voluntary sector have achieved national recognition and a top award for their response to the covid pandemic.  The top team created a new service called the Pennine Lancashire Virtual Covid Ward.

The virtual covid ward was quickly established when local health professionals from primary and secondary care services worked together to create it as the covid pandemic began to take hold.  It has helped over 2,000 people from becoming seriously ill or hospitalised with severe COVID-19 or worse.

The Pennine Lancashire CCGs, with local GPs, East Lancashire Medical Services (ELMS), Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale CVS, East Lancashire Hospital NHS Trust and Lancashire, South Cumbria Care Foundation NHS Trust worked together at breakneck speed to deliver the “at home” service to respond to the big numbers of people seriously affected by COVID-19.

The Covid Virtual Ward supports clinically vulnerable patients to stay in their own homes when they had a positive COVID-19 test result, or doctors thought they had COVID.  In doing so the service provides patients with physical and psychological support through regular contact, as well as ensuring that the patient’s own GP is engaged to help with continuity of care. However, if and when patients require further treatment, they will be rapidly admitted to hospital if needed. Patients on the ‘ward’ are kept in touch with daily by health care professionals, either by phone, video consultation or if required a home visit.  Patients have been able to remain at home near loved ones and in their own environment.  They were regularly contacted by phone, video consultation or if required, a home visit, and were provided with pulse oximeters for free, so that they could monitor their breathing symptoms.  If patients required further treatment, the service was able to rapidly admit them to hospital. The home system of close monitoring has helped avoid many hospital admissions and kept people safe and supported their recovery too.  

Dr Mark Dziobon, medical director for the two CCGs said:

We are really delighted and exceptionally proud to announce  #TeamPennine won the “Best Use of Integrated Care and Partnership Working in Patient Safety Award” at the HSJ Patient Safety Awards on Monday evening.  The winning nomination was for the Integrated Pennine Lancashire COVID Virtual Ward.  In particular the virtual covid ward was recognised for its rapid mobilisation, patient safety and partnership working, as well as the integrated working which was done at pace and at scale so effectively. 

A wide number of organisations, professionals and individuals came together quickly to respond to what we saw as a significant local health emergency. Doing nothing was not an option, and the pandemic galvanised everyone to create a service that has truly responded to and cared for the rising numbers of very ill and poorly people with COVID-19.  I would particularly like to thank all of our partners for their immense energy, enthusiasm and expertise in delivering this amazing service”. 

Integrated care partnerships such as the team that created the COVID virtual ward are being held by NHS England and health experts as the future model and approach for the NHS.  The Virtual Covid Ward in Pennine Lancashire is a real example of this, now.   

Dr John Dean, Deputy Medical Director for East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust said:

“It’s great that we have received this recognition for our partnership work across Pennine Lancashire, it has kept people safe and supported with COVID at home when possible, and is a platform for expansion of integrated acute services for local people” 

Director of Operations for Pennine at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, Tanya Hibbert said: “We often find that really difficult situations bring out the best in our clinical teams, so when Covid-19 struck, it was imperative to launch a service that kept us in touch with our service users in the community.  Our Pennine Lancashire Community team played an integral part in the development of the Covid Virtual Ward (CVW) which helped to remotely manage patients and maintain their safety. I am so proud of the collaborative work between BwD, East Lancashire Community teams and consultants in providing such an outstanding service during exceptional circumstances brought on by the pandemic. We’re proud to have been able to introduce this innovative way of working and be recognised for this with a HSJ award, a true testament to all involved and to the benefit of our communities.”

Christine Blythe, Chief Officer, Burnley, Pendle & Rossendale Council for Voluntary Service said:

“This award is a fantastic recognition of the amazing volunteer drivers who give their time, loyalty and commitment to help others who are less fortunate. The partnership between CVS, our volunteers and the team is excellent and resulted in a service that has supported so many people across Pennine through difficult times. I am so proud of our volunteers and the staff who have been involved”

Peter Steen who is one of the volunteer drivers for the award winning scheme said: “It was a privilege to join the Pennine Lancashire Covid Virtual Support Team at the Patient Safety Awards. I was delighted the team won their award as it is a testimony to all the hard work done setting up from scratch. I was pleased to represent the volunteer drivers and co ordinator from BPRCVS. Whilst we are a small cog in the machine it is a pleasure to know our input is appreciated”.

As well as being recognised nationally by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), the service was one of the first services of its kind in the country and as such has influenced and been adopted by other areas. The award winning team who work across organisational and professional boundaries believe that in building this service at scale, quickly and effectively, they have created a design prototype for services that will benefit patients in the future