COVID-19: collaboration is key

In the third of our series looking at our learning from COVID-19, Kay Haughton, Director of Transformation at West of England AHSN, explains how the AHSN used its existing expertise to help healthcare systems during the pandemic.

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As COVID-19 took hold, we became very aware in the West of England AHSN just how busy our operational colleagues were, and that we needed to stop and refocus our work and our staff where possible to support front-line teams in local healthcare systems.

I was delighted to be able to respond when Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) asked if I could help them manage their Incident Control Centre. I loved my previous role as Deputy Director of Nursing and working with my colleagues at the CCG, so it was a privilege to help.

What did I learn? Well, a lot about PPE – and as I am a theatre nurse, I thought I knew all there was to know! I learnt how death rates are reported and worked more closely with Public Heath England than I ever have before. I also learnt a lot about testing for COVID-19 and marvelled at how quickly organisations across the county mobilised to respond together, including the military based locally.

Being exposed to this unprecedented situation and learning has really helped me to ground the work I was currently undertaking in the AHSN. I became involved with reporting on how care homes were managing and this resonated clearly with the enhanced care home project we had just got underway.

The work on the deteriorating patient we have been producing for the last couple of years had generated the perfect training programme for our colleagues in care homes on RESTORE2, a tool to recognise early deterioration in their residents. In the WEAHSN we are always proud to be ahead of the curve and the RESTORE2 training package is a good example of this.

I also became aware of the Gloucestershire CCG telephone service to support the most vulnerable people who are shielding and I am now part of an AHSN community of practice to share and learn what AHSN colleagues across England have piloted to support the vulnerable.

Clearly an important part of reset and recovery is to recognise the impact COVID-19 has had for the people affected by the pandemic, both physically and mentally. This applies to everyone in society and as such we are reworking our business plan to address the areas where we can add support. Some examples include support to increase the uptake of annual health checks for people with learning disabilities, medicines safety and suicide prevention work, supporting those with respiratory disease and women who go into premature labour, and help for people to make choices about their care at the end of life.

It is heartening to realise that we were already delivering on many of these programmes and we are working at pace to accelerate progress where we can.

COVID-19 has placed unprecedented pressure on our health and care system, particularly in primary care. Whilst immediate focus has been on supporting patients with or at risk of the virus, there is a large cohort of people living with long-term conditions that need ongoing, proactive management to prevent a wave of exacerbations in the months ahead.

We are keen to support primary care by offering support to roll out a risk stratification tool developed by UCL Partners, our AHSN colleagues in London. The package is based on new pathway development, virtual consultations, and the optimal use of the wider primary care team. Additionally, the package includes a selection of digital tools to support patient activation and help patients to manage their conditions at home. This is designed to help primary care teams deliver quality care to patients and meet Quality and Outcomes Framework and other contractual requirements, while releasing precious GP time. This is just one of many ways we are seeking to support front-line colleagues, for more information on this and other programmes please go to our COVID-19 resources page.

To finish on a personal note, I would like to thank my former colleagues at Gloucestershire CCG for welcoming me back so warmly and to my Service and System Transformation team for keeping up the good work in the AHSN. I look forward to working with and supporting you all in the months to come. Stay safe.

In the first of this blog series, our Chief Executive Natasha Swinscoe explores how healthcare is changing to manage Covid-19, and considers the factors that helped those on the front-line respond quickly and effectively. Read it here.

In the second of this blog series, Kevin Hunter, Associate Director for Patient Safety & Programme Delivery, discusses how working across systems with multiple partners and the blending of resources, irrespective of organisational boundaries, was a key element of the work we undertook with care homes. Read it here.

Coming up in the series next week, Alex Leach, Deputy Director of Innovation & Growth, reflects on the huge opportunities and risks that Covid-19 has presented to innovators.

Posted on September 23, 2020

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