In July we made a grant to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital to purchase eight high-quality laptops for their Rheumatology Department. This project was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic which brought into focus the need for remote consultations which can only happen if quality IT kit is available. Although having a big impact in coping with the pandemic this capability has now become mainstream with significant long term benefits.
Having access to the new laptops has helped Dr Gavin Cleary, Consultant in Rheumatology at Alder Hey and his team cope with the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented.
He has sent us this update.
“The high-quality laptops have really facilitated working from home and home consultations which have had a huge impact on how I have maintained patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic. I can provide remote video and telephone clinics and having a laptop has also enabled me to carry out my
teaching and research work. The ease of being able to directly link to the Trust network and IT systems makes the process a lot smoother and I’m able to video call patients through ‘Attend Anywhere’, rather than previously having to call from a withheld number from my mobile phone. I’m also able to do my patient administration much more efficiently at home.
Being able to do remote consultations for patients whose conditions are more stable means they don’t have to travel, as some have to travel significant distances to attend Alder Hey. This means they don’t have to pay expenses such as car parking, patients can stay in school longer and their parents don’t have to take time off work. Families have fed back that having face to face contact by
video, even though virtual, does help to ease their anxiety and has, in the main, been a very positive experience. Another major positive for the department is that we are able to give trainee doctors access to a laptop if they are shielding for example. This means they can do consultations from home and are able to keep up with their training.”
The experience of Elizabeth and her family who live in Frodsham demonstrate the benefits of remote consultations.
Elizabeth has been going through the process of transferring her care from Alder Hey to adult services in time for her to start at university in Sheffield this year. Her mum, Karen has told us of their experience of taking part in remote consultations with Dr Cleary.
“Elizabeth and I have taken part in two consultations. One before she went to university and one after where we dialled in separately. The first consultation remotely linked us with Dr Cleary at Alder Hey and a doctor at the Royal Liverpool Hospital. “The consultation was fantastic as it linked us to two consultants in two entirely separate hospitals from our own home. We were able to fully take part in the consultation and ask any questions we had and get the benefit of advice from both consultants. The second consultation enabled me to dial in from home, whilst Elizabeth dialled in from university, so we were all able to take part and update
Dr Cleary as part of Elizabeth’s transition to adult care at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, whilst she is at university.”
Dr Cleary added “Post-COVID I actually think remote consultations are the way forward. They would free up consultant time to see both in and outpatients who need a physical examination and reduce travel and waiting times for those who only need a review. It would also reduce the pressure on parking spaces and minimise numbers in waiting rooms.
My team and I are keen to share our experiences of remote working. This has included taking part in a webinar which brought together healthcare professionals from across the country. We have applied for a research grant as we want to evaluate the experience of staff doing remote working and also the experience of patients, particularly vulnerable patients or socio-economically deprived patients so we can continually improve the process. This is so important because it is very likely remote consultations will become part of our routine care in the future beyond the pandemic.”
The Foundation is delighted that our grant has helped transform the consultation capability at Alder Hey and there is clearly more to come in this area. This project is a great example of what the Foundation wants to support. It underpins our relationship with Alder Hey and all its wonderful people be they clinicians, support staff and most importantly the children and families they care for particularly at these challenging times. Alder Hey Childrens Hospital is one of our Partnership Charities.