I attended an informative webinar last night ‘Sustainability and mental healthcare delivering – how to learn from the Covid 19 pandemic’ hosted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists with speakers from service provision in Wales sharing their research and findings.
Professor Alka Ahuja described the process for moving services in mental health to a virtual platform. Surprisingly clinicians were more reluctant than patients. They evaluated every step to ensure they were capturing accurate experiences from all areas giving real evidence for change and sharing. Now in 90% of GP surgeries, care homes and individuals can now access mental health services without having to leave their home removing anxiety, cost of travel, impact on the environment and protecting both patient and client from the risk of infection by Covid-19. Clinicians having to self-isolate because of their own vulnerabilities can safely continue to work reducing pressure on NHS.
Over the pandemic, they have rolled the virtual platform to prisons, police and plan on opening up for services in dental, optometry and pharmacy to be delivered the same way. Demand for virtual access has risen especially following suicides in schools in Wales. Almost everyone, regardless of their circumstances has a smart phone and can access services easier and quicker than in the traditional in person mode. Professor Ahuja explained the ‘whole school approach’ of services combining health and social care to ensure safeguarding for all.
UCL’s work on Psychological Therapies researching ‘More of the Same or More with the Same” opening up the extra benefits of the virtual platform. I like the ‘More with the Same’ part. Thinking differently, harnessing technology can deliver so much more.
Gemma Johns, another speaker gave a strong argument for the environmental benefits of virtual delivering. Since March 2020 129 billion facemarks and 65 billion pairs of plastic gloves have been used. Neither is required for virtual service delivery.
Improvements to wildlife have also been noted by researcher with less people travelling about. In addition food waste has reduced as more people are switching to store cupboard tinned or frozen foods away from fresh. Gemma showed a film featuring people aged 2yrs – 23yrs talking about their view of the impact Covid-19 has had. Five key themes were evident:
- Travel emissions and air pollution
- Water pollution has reduced
- Animals are more protected
- Recycling and plastic waste
- Food and energy waste
Dr Jacinta Tan was the final speaker. She outlined the benefits to future healthcare Covid-19 had presented with the forced move to find a way to deliver services accessibly to patients using virtual platforms. The evidence shows the benefits to retaining virtual delivery in some form once the pandemic is over. ‘Build Back Better’. Why would we return to traditional methods which don’t deliver the same positives as virtual delivery. This mirrors the use of virtual tools in business for training delivering.
The speakers acknowledged there is a risk to virtual delivery – is the person receiving the virtual service in their home vulnerable and alone or in an abusive relationship with their abuser listening in? Safeguarding training will enable investigation and support where required. The benefits clearly outweigh the risks increasing accessibility for service users in a quick, efficient way.
There is a strong interconnection between physical and mental health. We also know healthy people = a healthy community.
Virtual delivery and training is here to stay as tool for a menu of options – would you agree?
Check out the link below for the whole presentations. Whether you have a passion for mental health, the environment, healthcare, business growth or empowerment – there is so much information in here for you!