Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust
Enabling virtual services in the midst of a healthcare crisis
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, with government-mandated lockdown and social distancing in place, many NHS organisations found it impossible to carry out ‘business as usual’ and were forced to cancel many ‘non-emergency’ face to face appointments. MPFT was in the same position and was already experiencing staff shortages due to illness and precautionary self-isolating measures. It realised that to avoid interruption to its many care services, it needed to provide service users with a virtual option as quickly as possible.
Step forward Nasstar which had already announced it would provide OneConsultation free of charge to NHS Trusts, for one month and installed within 72 hours. In doing so, it ensured the Trust had the tools needed to deliver healthcare expertise without patients leaving their home. MPFT decided to take up the offer to build upon an initial pilot set up, and rapidly expand this to cover all MPFT’s service areas.
Improved service overall – users now benefit from a ‘blended approach’ whereby as the first lockdown period ended, services continued to be run virtually whilst also providing a traditional face to face option.
Increased numbers of overall consultations – some Trust services delivered more consultation sessions overall with the shift to virtual consultations, despite having fewer clinicians delivering the services because of illness, shielding, and looking after their own children.
Long term increase in take-up – MPFT expect take-up to increase even when the pandemic is over as patients have seen the benefits of video consultations during lockdown and are wanting to use it more, despite having the option to return to in-person sessions.
Potential increase in appointments kept by service users – one commented “I think people would attend their appointments more because they don’t have the anxiety of visiting some of these buildings.”
Nasstar provided MPFT with OneConsultation - a fully managed, customisable, and scalable virtual consultation service. This took advantage of the Trust’s existing Skype for Business deployment which was already being used internally and subsequently upgraded to Microsoft Teams to better support remote working and collaboration.
Designed for the healthcare sector, OneConsultation provides a secure virtual consultation room that a doctor can join using Microsoft Teams and a patient can join via their web browser on a smartphone, tablet, or PC. From initial contact, it took just 72 hours for Nasstar to implement OneConsultation, enabling the Trust to offer virtual consultations for over 180 of its services within waiting rooms which were named and configured specifically to the Trust's service needs.
The largest users are Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Children’s Therapy Services, but it is also used by inclusivity and gender realignment as well as addiction services provided via its Inclusion specialist care group. A rollout of this scale would have normally taken three months or more.
In just six months, Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust went from zero virtual consultations with service users to providing more than 37,000 consultations across all service areas, at an average of 205 consultations per day. Take-up was rapid, with the Trust achieving 1,000 per week within just 10 weeks of the system being deployed.
Last year in March 2020 we had just under 25,000 contacts with our substance misuse services, in March 2021, through working digitally, over the telephone and face-to-face before lockdown, we had nearly 30,000 engagements – quite a substantial increase. The data suggests that we’re engaging more of our service users, more often, which is fantastic. I can guarantee that we are now seeing people that we’ve never seen before, because of this new digital offer. Once the face-to-face option is available again, some service users will want to use that over digital offerings.
Our initial transformation plan was to take the pilot waiting room we had in place and to test this within one or two service areas. Instead, COVID-19 and Nasstar accelerated our ambitions significantly from a 5-year Trust-wide ambition to getting this actively used across all services in mere weeks. The responsiveness of the Nasstar team, from product lead to account manager was fantastic. And we really delivered this in true partnership to get the results we did for our service users, carers and staff.