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Creation of a 'virtual health and social care superstructure' underpinned by keeping people safe

Published: Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Creation of a 'virtual health and social  care superstructure' underpinned by keeping people safe

Near Me - use across the generations

Thousands of people in Lanarkshire have received vital support in recent weeks via a newly-created health and social care 'virtual superstructure'. Technology called NHS Lanarkshire Near Me, allows health and social care providers to offer secure video call access to their services as part of their day-to-day work. Instead of travelling to their appointment, patients or service users enter an online waiting area from their computer, smartphone or tablet. The service is notified when they arrive, and a health or social care provider joins the virtual consultation.

At the turn of the year - and following successful testing and trials - Near Me was in the formative stages of a wider roll-out to various primary, community and hospital care settings.

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, however, the scale up was accelerated as part of a robust emergency response. From 75 consultations in February, Near Me use, across a plethora of services equipped with the technology, has grown to over 10,000 virtual consultations since early March. Patients have spanned the generations, from first time mums and their new borns, younger adults living with mental health conditions to 90-something care home residents.

Partnership working to enable the creation of the infrastructure has been vital. Colleagues across health and social care, ranging from NHS Lanarkshire’s web team, information technology to a range of clinical and community services, have worked tirelessly to support the scale up, led by the Technology Enabled Care (TEC) team. Morag Hearty, NHS Lanarkshire TEC programme manager, said: “Building on a solid foundation of previous Near Me usage, scores of online clinics have been set up, enabling thousands of consultations and securely linking many more people, from their own homes, with GP surgeries, hospital departments and community health and social care teams.  “The unified objective has been to protect life and keep people safe.”Morag added: “Had the infrastructure that’s enabled these consultations been built with bricks and mortar, you’d be talking about the rapid and very visible creation of a health and social care superstructure. ”As well as being used in the frontline Covid response - including supporting some consultations in Covid assessment centres - a fundamental use of Near Me is to support health and social care services to remain accessible. Ms Hearty added: “A key message of NHS Lanarkshire and partners is that we are very much still open and safe. We have had to change how we deliver services and appointments may feel different – if people need to be seen face-to-face, it will still happen where appropriate – but Near Me has enabled us to securely and efficiently continue with service delivery. ”The TEC service is hosted by South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP).

The HSCP’s chief officer, Val de Souza, said: “The accelerated scale up of Near Me provision has been a key feature of our response to Covid-19 and its success is testament to many partners working together. “Technology like this can support people to manage their health and wellbeing, both safely and conveniently, whilst at the same time reducing pressure on the health and social care system.”

New borns to care home war heroes benefit from cutting edge technology

From new mums to care home war heroes, Near Me has kept people connected to vital support during Covid.

Laura Kerr, a breastfeeding support service assistant of NHS Lanarkshire’s infant feeding support team, said: “Restrictions have meant we don’t travel to new parents as we’d normally do. The introduction of Near Me, however, has not only kept us connected and saved us from travelling a lot of miles, it’s also meant we can connect to the video call at the exact time the baby needs fed, which we can’t always manage on community visits. “Dads are particularly enjoying playing a part as camera man! ”Laura added: “I initially thought it would feel very unnatural. However, a few seconds into the call, it feels quite normal. I also think because the parents have the time organised for their call, they are ready to feed and very relaxed. I feel that mums are managing to get their baby attached quickly with our guidance.”

As well as clinical consultations, the technology can also be used by health and social care providers to maintain vital links and help people avoid social isolation.

Two heroes of World War II (pictured above) recently marked the 75th anniversary of the end of war via Near Me. Despite lockdown restrictions, Gordon Cowan (97) and Peter Fitzpatrick (92), both residents of David Walker Gardens in Rutherglen, kept community spirit alive by making a special guest appearance – via Near Me – to a local childcare hub. Loch Primary School Hub - also in Rutherglen - is one of several South Lanarkshire Council facilities that, by providing childcare for key workers, has become an integral part of ensuring health, social care and emergency services can continue to be delivered. Before being linked up with the veterans, pupils had painted pictures, depicting what they’d been learning about the announcement of peace after six years of global conflict. They’d displayed them via the secure video link to help residents mark the celebrations. And, in return, Gordon and Peter got to tell the children and Hub volunteers - during a question and answer session - how a stoic outlook served them well during their time at sea and air. A short film is available at this link: https://vimeo.com/416277932


Near Me lifeline for Mum Ashleigh




Mum-of-one Ashleigh Allan from Viewpark, Lanarkshire is living with acute anxiety and depression and links in regularly with her community psychiatric nurse, Claire Stevenson, for support. Ashleigh (29) explained that Near Me has been a ‘lifeline’. “There can be times when I’m struggling and I can become quite panicky. The implications of lockdown and feeling isolated have meant those feelings have been magnified on various occasions. “Claire’s presence is always very calming and reassuring. That’s always a massive help. Quite often she doesn’t need to say anything - I can take comfort from her demeanour. “I was worried when the restrictions were set down that presence would be lost due to physical distance restrictions. But using Near Me has meant that connection has remained strong. “Even outwith any consultations we have, I can gain reassurance that Claire’s simply at the other side of the screen and I can arrange to talk to her when I need to. It’s a lifeline. ” Ashleigh added: “My daughter Brhianna is my world and the reason I get up in the morning. As every parent will know, lockdown is a busy time! “Having that amazing support from Claire – with her continued presence – has allowed me to deal with the mental health challenges I face effectively. Most importantly, her support via Near Me has helped me to keep focusing on the most important thing; being a mum.”

How to use Near Me

Patients may now be offered this type of virtual appointment, where appropriate. Your clinician will give you a website address and clear instructions on how to access the Near Me video clinic. Clinicians will also will give you an appointment date and time when you should start your video call. You do not need to download an App or create an account. The service is for patients with pre-arranged appointment times only.

For further information visit: https://www.nearme.scot/