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London AHSNs work together to embed virtual consultations across the capital

Three London Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) worked together to support Trusts in the region to quickly embed virtual consultations to safeguard patients and staff during the pandemic.

The challenge

COVID-19 meant NHS Trusts had to find an alternative to face to face consultations for many patients, to both protect vulnerable patients and safeguard staff. NHS Trusts responded by rapidly accelerating the availability of virtual consultations.

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE/I) procured a national licence for Attend Anywhere – a secure web-based video consultation solution – for 12 months, to accelerate uptake of video consultations in all secondary care settings, allowing NHS staff to deliver clinics and services virtually.

Prior to COVID-19 there were some trailblazer sites where implementation was being observed and evaluated, but there had not been plans or the infrastructure normally required for system wide implementation at pace. This meant some Trusts found themselves experiencing similar obstacles and challenges, but there was no ‘system learning’ and ‘solution sharing’ mechanism in place.

The solution

Using a collaborative pan-London approach UCLPartners, the Health Innovation Network, and Imperial College Health Partners (the three London AHSNs) have been working with NHSE/I, alongside hospital Trusts to support the roll out, optimisation and long-term use of Attend Anywhere.

By working together across the region, the London AHSNs have been able to help Trusts quickly embed the new technology by responding to their needs and experiences, producing resources and supporting shared learning. The approach included:

  • Successfully hosting two webinars – “Building video consultations into the workflow” and “Equity of Access”, with over ~70 and ~100 attendees, respectively.
  • Sharing existing documentation and best practice directly with Trusts. This was done by:
    • Creating video and audio footage of clinicians sharing their experience of delivering virtual consultations during the pandemic.
    • Sharing various resources with Trusts directly through NHS Futures, including Standard Operating Procedures, training packages, equality impact assessments, patient-facing material and Trust individual rollout materials.
    • Producing both a patient and clinician survey template and working with a small number of London Trusts to implement/tailor surveys to meet local needs and gather a first-look evidence base of video consultation usage across London.

Impact and outcomes

The AHSNs engaged with 29 Trusts across London and provided opportunities for colleagues in Trusts to hear from others and share tips of what worked in practice.

This helped to build a community of colleagues working on similar challenges and solutions around the implementation of virtual consultations. For common issues that were not resolved the AHSNs provided a strong platform for these issues to be highlighted and escalated. AHSNs also facilitated conversations about collaboration for sharing best practice and tools.

Feedback

Vin Diwakar, London Regional Medical Director & CCIO, NHSE & I said: “In response to the initial wave of COVID-19 infections, the AHSNs in London mobilised in days to collaborate with NHSE & I (London), to support acute Trust healthcare providers in London to rapidly deploy, take up and embed video consultations as a way to continue to deliver clinical services to patients in a risk-free way.

“The AHSNs bring a wealth of experience and expertise in working with clinical teams to support them understand, adopt and spread this relatively new innovation which allowed the London region to lead the successful use of video across the country – a big ‘thank you’ to our AHSN colleagues!”

Claire Kennedy, Project Manager, Service Transformation, Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust said:  “The AHSN team was key to facilitating collaboration that allowed us to become a part of influential brainstorming sessions and informative conversations with a range of people across the London.

“As a result, I had the opportunity to think bigger, to influence across a system and create better things to help our patients access the best care.”