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Move to digital working accelerated access to services, finds CQC review

by Awil Mohamoud
30 September 2020

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The move to digital working during Covid-19 has ‘accelerated access to services’ and helped vulnerable groups to receive vital support, according to the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC carried out provider collaboration reviews (PCRs) of 11 Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) and Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) between July and August, to determine how providers have been working together in response to the pandemic.

Each review focused on people aged 65 and over – as a group particularly affected by Covid-19 – and their experiences of urgent and emergency care services.

Digital innovation

The CQC found that digital solutions put in place during the pandemic had ‘supported data-sharing and communication between and within health and social care organisations’.

In Brighton and Hove, the review looked at the use of a local-authority-built web application, which enabled the council, healthcare providers and the voluntary sector to share up-to-date information on the shielding population. It allowed them to filter data to find whether a person was already known to a support organisation, preventing duplication of work, and make referrals to each other to support patients with food, medicine, financial hardship and social care. 

The CQC said this had meant staff could access information when they were out in the community supporting people, and focus on giving people tailored support when they needed it. 

The review concluded this community collaboration, put together by Sussex Health and Care ICS, helped to ensure people at risk, such as the elderly and those shielding, got the help they required. 

‘Female-only testing sites’

Another example of good practice identified in the report was Frimley Health and Care ICS’ work to understand the needs of the local population during the early stages of Covid. 

Through a primary care initiative with the local council, the mosques across Slough were closed a week  earlier than the rest of the country, after a local GP recognised that  Friday prayers could potentially increase the spread of the virus. 

With a significant proportion of the Muslim  population in the area aged 65 or over, the initiative helped ensure that many of those older people were not exposed, the report said. 

Frimley ICS also created female-only Covid-19 testing sites after recognising that local Muslim women could be disenfranchised about attending if male staff  worked at the sites. 

‘Holistic care in difficult circumstances’

The CQC also looked at an initiative set up by St Luke’s Hospice in Devon to support people with bereavement during the pandemic. The telephone service, staffed by trained professionals, offered a listening ear to those who had been or were close to being bereaved, and signposted people to other services that could support them. Staff also made regular contact with people, in some cases, to ensure they did not feel isolated.

The report said: ‘During the pandemic, the whole approach to death and the dying, and those who were left behind, has been underpinned by the multi-agency work to be a compassionate city. The local authority, adult social care, NHS trusts, the clinical commissioning group and public health all commented on the work of the St Luke’s Hospice during the pandemic and its holistic care during difficult circumstances for many families and friends.’

The full findings from the 11 reviews will be published in the CQC’s annual State of Care report in October, and reviews of all ICS and STP areas are due to be completed by the end of 2020/21.

The regulator said of its initial findings: ‘Tackling the issues related to Covid-19 has required effective strategic planning, good relationships and practical, deliverable solutions. Some localities appear to have fared better than others, depending on the strength of previously established working relationships. 

‘Learning lessons now is especially important, so that providers can be prepared for any second peak of the virus and times of pressure on the system, such as winter.’


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