Therapies staff at Ysbyty Cwm Cynon have come up with an innovative way to provide virtual care and reassurance to patients during the Coronavirus pandemic.
A multi-disciplinary team of therapists has created a Community Therapies Hub for those recovering from Covid, as well as helping others in the Cynon Valley and Merthyr in need of routine services. Staff from physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, speech and language therapy and dietetics are working together to ensure no health needs are missed amongst changes to services due to the virus.
The hub has a dedicated phone line, open seven days a week, for referrals, which come from hospital wards, GPs and care homes. Referrals can be made for adults discharged from hospital or anyone living in the community who has been adversely affected as a result of the Covid pandemic, such as through infection, social isolation, shielding, paused planned care or not being able to access usual services.
As well as delivering care and advice via telehealth or virtual consultations, the therapists can also support carers, relatives and volunteers to provide care, as well as providing face-to-face contact where clinically necessary.
Physiotherapy clinical lead (medicine) Karen Wright said: “Within therapies, our concerns were, firstly, as a workforce, were our numbers going to be affected and, secondly, that some of our services would change or be stepped down. We were concerned that, as some Covid and non-Covid patients were discharged from hospital, some needs could be missed.
“We repurposed one of the outpatient telephone lines and kept the criteria broad, to include adults in hospital or anyone in the community who was worried. It was for people who have not necessarily had Covid but also frail, older people who might be afraid that their usual needs would not be met.”
For those recovering from Covid, symptoms – including muscle weakness, breathlessness, lack of appetite, problems sleeping and forgetfulness – vary from person to person, and getting back to health can take longer for some than others. The hub therapists help with conditions including difficulty swallowing, voice problems, foot infections and malnutrition, as well as issues around maintaining independence, mobility, personal care and preparing meals.
The team meets and discusses cases whilst maintaining social distancing measures in a large gym space, using a projector, with some decisions being made more quickly under the new way of working. Karen added: “What we have done has been worthwhile and of value. We have held a lot of virtual telephone appointments and the feedback has been that people are pleased to hear from us and have that reassurance. In addition to the initial call, patients have welcomed the follow-up call a few days later, when they have had time to digest information and can ask questions.
“I think one of the other really positive things has been breaking down barriers holistically in meeting patient needs. If a physio thinks there’s a need for equipment, for example, it’s ordinarily referred to the OT for assessment, but now it’s getting discussed by the multi-disciplinary team and happening sometimes on the same day.”
The hub team plans to adapt when routine services are switched back on, maintaining elements of the hub that have proved successful. Anyone wishing to find out more and access therapy services can call the hub on 01443 471515 between 8am and 4pm, Monday to Sunday.