COVID-19 – Doing Things Differently – HOPE Specialist Service

HOPE Specialist Service set up Virtual Falls Rehab programme to help patients during lockdown

In the wake of COVID-19, many people across the UK have been forced to make vast changes to their daily lives. Experts believe these changes – while necessary to protect against the spread of COVID-19 – could have an adverse impact on health by resulting in fewer people seeking or completing treatment and even causing new or worsening conditions in some cases.

With this in mind, many health and wellbeing services have had to adopt alternative ways of working to ensure patients and service users requiring urgent or ongoing support can still receive the help they require.

As a result, Care Plus Group’s HOPE Specialist Service has taken their practice online and set up a Virtual Falls Rehab programme via Zoom, ensuring they continue to deliver support to those that need it across the community.

Gemma Capes, Senior Physiotherapist at HOPE Specialist Service, said: “Our Virtual Falls Rehab programme was set up to try and give our patients something that is as much like the HOPE experience as possible during this unfamiliar period.

“With all our patients being a part of the population told to shield, due to their age or a medical condition, our traditional group sessions are not an option. Although being able to enter a virtual world means we can have the same interaction with our patients that we would have had in our face-to-face sessions at The Val Waterhouse Centre.

“As a team, we’ve never done anything like this before, with some staff or patients having never previously used Zoom. This is a new world we are delving into, but an exciting one for all of us involved. Initially we were anxious about the logistics as there was a lot to think about before we got it up and running, but it’s been a huge success so far!”

Following two pre-assessment clinics via Zoom, the team started their two Virtual Falls Rehab groups, involving a total of 12 patients, on 26th May 2020. The oldest person within the group is 89 years old, whilst the average age across the 12 patients is 79 years old; proving that age is no barrier to using technology.

Gemma said: “There were a few technical issues in this new virtual world to start with that our patients and staff came across, but those in the know from the team have been great in talking the patients through it all over the phone.”

The HOPE team have done their best to support patients since the lockdown began; collectively spending hundreds of hours on the phone, helping patients to get medication and essential food supplies, referring them into other services where appropriate and just being there for a chat when patients need to hear a friendly voice.

Whilst patients have been grateful for that contact and support, it’s been a challenging and frustrating time for all of the HOPE team who haven’t been able to do what they do best and run their rehabilitation programmes as normal.

Gemma said: “Being able to get back into the routine of running rehabilitation groups again thanks to the use of technology has been fantastic for all of the staff. Setting the Virtual Falls Rehab programme up has really boosted staff morale, giving them the opportunity to continue to make a difference during this difficult time and help our patients again is priceless.

“Our 8-week programmes allow patients to come in as a group to listen to the educational talks and ask any questions, before they go off into the breakout rooms within Zoom to complete their 1:1 exercises with their team member.”

The team at HOPE Specialist Service have had some great feedback from their patients for the Virtual Falls Rehab programme already, even after just a few sessions. Many patients have noticed a huge difference already in their movement and are feeling upbeat having also had the opportunity to engage with their peers throughout the sessions.

Gemma said: “We had a visually impaired patient who initially found it difficult to get on to Zoom and into the session, but we worked with her to get this sorted. She’s since reported that after only one session she can’t believe the difference in her confidence and is feeling much more assured to move around with different walking aids now. She never realised how good these virtual sessions could be and is loving the programme.

“We’ve had a patient at the beginning of the programme who was unable to stand independently, but is now managing to do so after only a few sessions. We also have another patient who has long term ankle problems, but is now starting to see the benefit of the exercises each week.

“We’ve found patients have been able to chat amongst themselves about their own experiences during the sessions, enabling them to share tips and tricks that have worked for themselves. It’s been great to see so much positivity come from the programme and how it gives everyone involved a massive boost both physically and mentally.”

Whilst the sessions have been a huge success so far there is no reason why the Virtual Falls Rehab programmes can’t continue once the pandemic is behind us, with the team already thinking of how to implement these into their normal routine.

Gemma said: “The Virtual Falls Rehab sessions are very similar to how we run them at The Val Waterhouse Centre, ordinarily. We feel the virtual sessions would be a great addition for those patients that do not feel confident enough to attend the sessions face-to-face. We appreciate group settings aren’t for everyone, so to be able to offer more virtual sessions to complement our existing programmes in the future would be fantastic.”

The HOPE Specialist Service team are forever adapting and changing their methods to meet each individual patients’ needs, and it’s no different with the Virtual Falls Rehab programme. After the eight weeks the team will look back over certain objectives pre and post programme to evaluate the sessions and make any necessary changes.

Gemma concluded: “I never thought the Virtual Falls Rehab programme would be as successful as it has been and we’re looking forward to assessing more patients in the next few weeks to start another group.

“It has been great to see the interaction and hard work the team have put in to problem solve and achieve the best outcomes for our patients. We have all stepped outside our comfort zones when it comes to using technology, and it just goes to show what can be achieved when we overcome such hurdles.

“Everyone has thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and achieved so much in just a short space of time. Our patients’ wellbeing is always our number one priority and we’re proud to have been able to provide our service through the use of technology, ensuring people continue to receive the urgent or ongoing support they need during this difficult period whilst we’re all staying at home.”

The innovative and award-winning, HOPE Specialist Service offer a number of options designed to help improve mobility, stability and confidence. Everyone is different and has different needs, so each programme is tailored to suit the individuals need and abilities, so no matter how little someone can do, the team can design a programme to help.

For more information about HOPE Specialist Service or to contact the team please visit our website on https://www.careplusgroup.org/services/hope-specialist-service

 

The team are joined by some of their patients on Zoom

 

Patient using a door pulley for upper limb mobility and balance

 

Patient working to improve their quad strength

 

Patient working on  their spinal rotation at the piano

 

A patient with their team leader ready for 1:1 exercises

 

Another group of patients ready for an online session
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