Connected - when connection is needed most
Published: Friday, 12 June 2020
Near Me shores up Mental Health Support
Innovative technology that allows health and care providers to offer secure video call access to their services is playing a vital role supporting mental health.
Instead of travelling to their appointment, NHS Lanarkshire Near Me allows patients or service users to enter an online waiting area from their computer, smartphone or tablet. The service is notified when they arrive, and a health or care provider joins the virtual consultation.
As part of the Covid-19 response, the use of the technology has been scaled up significantly across many health and social care services, including primary care, hospital and community care, with an exponential rise in online appointments in recent months.
Crucially, Near Me, which was well-established before the pandemic, has also been playing an increasingly vital role across a broad range of mental health services – and will continue to do so.
These range from psychiatry, community teams, psychology, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Distress Brief Intervention, rehabilitation and recovery, to name but a few.
Claire Stevenson, an NHS Lanarkshire community psychiatric nurse, summed up the benefits of Near Me in her role.
“The technology has become fundamental tool in how we operate – especially under lockdown restrictions,” said Claire, whose job involves supporting people living with a range of mental health challenges in a community setting.
“It’s been well-publicised that feelings of anxiety can become more pronounced during lockdown. That is especially true for people living with existing challenges, because of the physical separation from support network, like friends and family.
“Having Near Me has allowed us to reduce the impact of this by maintaining that vital face-to-face interaction.
Claire added: “During any consultation, especially at assessment phase, being able to see patients is vital. Observing body language provides us with important information, just as seeing and interacting with the clinician can reassure and put the patient at ease.
“In terms of the lockdown, as a safety precaution, we’ve had restricted capacity to go out and see patients. Where we can we’ve been required to wear PPE, which can also be a barrier to that very important human interaction aspect.
“And although contact can be carried out on the phone, it is obviously without that visible connection. Near Me has been vitally important in overcoming these very fundamental but highly important person-to-person communication challenges. It’s kept us connected – very often when patients have needed that connection the most.”
Morag Hearty, NHS Lanarkshire Technology Enabled Care (TEC) Programme Manager, explained: “Going forward, and generally speaking, the benefits of the technology mean that people can engage with mental health services from the comfort of their own home. As is similar with many other services we support, that can reduce a lot of the stress and demands of travelling to appointments, with all the advantages of maintaining that face-to-face contact.”
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 Claire Stevenson, her community psychiatric nurse, 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 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.
Please ask your clinician about the possibility of arranging appointments via Near Me.
For further info on Near Me visit: https://www.nearme.scot/