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Guest blog: reflecting on lessons learnt from the pandemic

Written by: Anita Mottram - 25th March 2021

In this blog, Dr Anita Mottram, principal occupational therapist for Kirklees Council, talks about the changes implemented in response to the pandemic and the lessons learnt.

We quickly realised that hospitals were under incredible pressure and we started to look at ways to support them, and how community services also needed to be adapted to respond to the new scenario and the pressure that they also faced.

We set up daily discharge to assess meetings with our local health providers to review the demands of that day. We quickly developed new pathways, new processes and documentation. We had to deliver services differently, due to a reduced staffing capacity, as many of our our workforce was forced to shield or self-isolate. We identified those services that were essential and critical and diverted staffing resources, from other services, to support these.

We developed risk management strategies to ensure the safety of service users as well as staff. We introduced new ways to carry out client assessment, working virtually where it was appropriate to do so, and produced guidelines for staff to help them with this new way of working. Staff made sure interventions took place safely, but at the same time maintained a person-centred approach.

I worked closely with the principal social worker to create a discharge to assess form that streamlined the assessment of clients’ needs to facilitate discharge from hospital and that could be used across a wide range of services to ensure consistency in approach.

Recognising the increased pressure and demand on community services, we increased the number of beds available in the community by purchasing extra beds within care homes to further assess those people who were not fit enough to go home yet and needed that additional support to do so.

Staff involvement and wellbeing

The whole situation required a great amount of resilience from staff to work differently and respond to the needs of service users.

Sometimes staff were required to work with teams they would not normally liaise with and to share their skills and knowledge. There were interdependencies between services and organisations. For instance, our IT department was fantastic and helped care homes by providing a number of tablets so that residents could get in touch with loved ones. It was recognised that the situation required a systemwide approach.

There was lots of emphasis placed on looking after the wellbeing of staff and to find ways to support them and their needs. There were clear messages coming from the senior management team and lots of expressions of gratitude that helped staff feel appreciated. It was important to recognise the incredible work that social care staff were undertaking.

Lessons learnt

There was a lot of unexpected, situated learning with situations changing daily to respond to service demands.

We learnt that it is possible to introduce virtual assessment, where it is safe to do so, alongside face-to-face ones. Some clients actually preferred an initial virtual appointment as this made them feel more comfortable.

The enhanced collaborative approach across different organisations and teams has brought many benefits. To be able to share ideas, skills and common challenges has helped find new effective solutions and, moving forward, we are looking at what resources are needed to maintain this approach.

In the wake of the pandemic, it will be important to focus on helping people who were affected by COVID-19 maintain their quality of life. Many people have developed long-term symptoms following their recovery and it is vital to support those people to ensure they can continue to lead a fulfilling life.

Learn more about some of the challenges faced by healthcare services across the North East and Yorkshire in a new article by our CEO Richard Stubbs