Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the USA, once said: “Out of adversity comes opportunity”.
It’s true that working on the front line during the pandemic has been immensely challenging. But it’s also true that we’ve all been able to learn a great deal along the way. And much of what we’ve learnt will help us to deliver better services to patients in the future.
A case in point is the COVID Management Service (CMS). Taurus was commissioned by the CCG to deliver this service at the start of the pandemic. A dedicated telephone line was set up from mid-April to take referrals of COVID positive patients from GP practices, NHS111, care homes, Wye Valley NHS Trust and other health practitioners. At the height of the pandemic, 138 patients were being managed by the team.
The CMS system is heavily underpinned by effective technology and the Taurus team pulled together to configure and distribute laptops and deliver training to all parties in a matter of days. James Head, Interim Director of Operations at Taurus, commented: “Similar CMS services were being set up around the country, but ours was one of the first widescale services in the UK to utilise video consultations.” He continued: “There is no way back after this to the way things used to be. If you had told GPs before the pandemic that they had to manage such a wide caseload of patients with severe respiratory illness remotely, they wouldn’t have accepted it. Now they take it in their stride.”
This experience will be utilised when the Taurus Improved Access is restored. Kim McCready, Head of Operations at Taurus, added: “Herefordshire is such a rural county. Being able to manage patients at home is a much more efficient and safer process for all.”
Once referred to the CMS, patients were contacted daily by Taurus team members to check on their progress and recovery, to offer advice and reassurance and to discharge them when better. Patients were given the service telephone number in case they needed to ring for further reassurance or if they deteriorated. Feedback has been universally positive.
One patient said:
“Thank you very much for looking after me. I feel reassured that someone is there who understands what I am going through.”
Another said: “Thank you so much for always ringing me, it gives me so much reassurance, you are all heroes.”
The CMS service has also supported the county’s care homes. Taurus clinicians have regularly reviewed patients in care homes throughout the pandemic and have been on hand to offer advice and support to GPs when major incidents have occurred. In addition, oxygen saturation probes have been provided by the service both to care homes and patients at home, as needed to help with self-monitoring.
Thankfully, for the time being, infections have significantly reduced in the county and the case load is now fewer than 10 patients. However, the learning the team has achieved – particularly around team working and innovative IT practice – will continue long into the future.
“I have been so proud of the team and how we’ve all pulled together,” concluded Kim, “Everyone has been absolutely amazing!”