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Upskilling Encourages NHS to Introduce Technology Enabled Care During Covid-19

A digital upskilling programme, designed to promote the introduction of digital tools within NHS general practices, has returned encouraging results.

Upskilling Encourages NHS to Introduce Technology Enabled Care During Covid-19

"The digital upskilling course developed clinicians confidence and capabilities, which allowed them to successfully adapt to new ways of working required as a result of the current pandemic."
Dr Ruth Chambers, Clinical Lead for the Programme

Findings of a survey completed by participants, show that the majority of clinicians who participated in the programme have been utilizing digital tools to deliver care effectively during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The programme began in 2018, when NHS England funded a pilot in Staffordshire as part of the delivery of the GPN 10 Point Plan.

This pilot saw local General Practice Nurses (GPN) participate in a series of action learning sets, in order to adopt and embed technology enabled care and digital tools within their practices and develop as digital GPN champions.

The action learning sets were designed to demonstrate how technology enabled care and digital tools could be adopted and embedded within general practices to improve patient care and experience.

This programme of work was then commissioned across additional regions of England in 2018/19, and again in 2019/20.

The second phase of the programme saw primary care clinicians, including GPs and practice nurses, along with other healthcare professionals, take part in the action learning sets to develop their abilities and confidence in using digital tools to benefit patients, and encourage better management of long-term conditions.

These digital tools include video-consultations, the use of apps to encourage self-management of conditions, and the utilization of social media to provide people with safe and accurate health and lifestyle information.

Since the programme began, over 350 clinicians in primary care settings across the UK have taken part, to gain skills and confidence in the utilization of digital tools that can connect frontline healthcare workers and their patients.

Of course, the introduction of digital tools has become particularly significant with the onset of the current Covid-19 pandemic.

In September 2020, all participants of the upskilling programme were invited to complete a digital survey.

This survey was designed to ascertain whether participation in the programme had encouraged the participants, and their colleagues, to embrace the digital delivery of care more effectively during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Of the 200+ responses received, 72% of participants confirmed that they had held video-consultations with patients in August and September 2020. With 95% of respondents reporting that colleagues in their practice had used video-consultation during the same period, demonstrating that the learnt digital transformation had been widely adopted.

88% of respondents also confirmed that clinician to patient texting, and the sharing of health messages and practice information on social media was being utilised.

The utilization of digital tools in this way ensures that patients still feel connected to their local GPs and surgeries, despite a significant drop in the number of face-to-face appointments being carried out.

The results of the survey have been captured in an article published on BJGP Life1.. The article reiterates that primary care clinicians need the skills and support, not just the ‘kit’, to make digital primary care transformation happen in practice at scale, and demonstrates that the majority of the programme’s participants were providing video-consultations in their practices between July and September 2020.

This is an excellent result when compared to the national average, as overall just 0.5% of general practice consultations in England were video-consultations in September 20202.. 

Rachel Hatfield, National Programme Manager for the GPN and Clinician Action Learning Sets, and Special Projects Manager for Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit, commented; “these fantastic results demonstrate that upskilling general practice clinicians encourages the implementation of technology enabled care and digital tools as usual service”.

Dr Ruth Chambers, Clinical Lead for the programme, highlighted that “the digital upskilling course developed clinician’s confidence and capabilities, which allowed them to easily and successfully adapt to the new ways of working required as a result of the current pandemic”.

Learn more about how the use of digital technology by clinicians and citizens, can improve the health and wellbeing of the population by visiting https://www.digihealthwell.co.uk/


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