Lisa Maynard, Improvement Adviser, Care Inspectorate

Phase 1 (Spring / Summer 2020)

How have you been able to keep a focus on what matters to people during COVID? 

My team in improvement support have been very lucky in that the role we’re undertaking  during the crisis involves speaking with care home managers directly, and getting an  insight on what matters to them, and how they are coping in general.

What have you had to do differently and what made this possible? 

We are involved in the roll out of Near Me, the video technology that allows care home residents to have appointments with their GP without leaving the home.  We are individually calling over 800 older people in care homes at the moment in order to introduce the technology to them and improve confidence and awareness of its use.  

Initially, the Near Me roll out was planned to take place slowly, to get people used to the  new technology and to reduce anxiety amongst staff who may not have great IT  skills. The sense of urgency, the willingness of staff to help each other and to break  normal ways of working all heightened and encouraged the use of Near Me. The  residents also embraced this to allow them to have contact with the ‘outside world.’

What have you noticed that has been better?

We have had lots of delighted staff members feeling excited about using it – the convenience and ease of the technology, and some good news stories are starting to come in about its use. One example: A care home manager was able to quickly set up an appointment with a local GP to find out if a resident’s rash was shingles, as she had a pregnant member of staff who was under 12 weeks. The GP was able to quickly reassure that it was not shingles, and the manager said  that before this would’ve taken ages. Others are using the technology comfortably and  have been doing so since the lockdown started for podiatry clinics and GP appointments,  as well as chats with the district nurse.

How did this make you feel?  

It feels wonderful that we’re helping to raise awareness and to make life easier for staff  and older people at this crucial time.

What have you learned through this?  

People will engage in new ways of communicating quite happily if you take time to  explain and be patient!

Anything else you want to tell us?  

We are moving on to Children’s Services next, although they are being invited to get in  touch if they want to use the service, as their needs are much different. We have been praised by the Scottish Government for our work in rolling Near Me out rapidly.

Phase 2 (Autumn 2020)

What has continued to help keep a focus on what matters for people during the  pandemic? 

Continuing conversations with services and making sure that they have virtual spaces to  advocate for themselves and those in their care has been vital. 

Since my first story, the Near Me programme has been rolled out successfully amongst all  Older People care homes in Scotland and all of the inspection colleagues which has  helped strengthen lines of communication and understanding across the sector.

Are there changes that seem to be lasting longer term and are there things that have  slid back to old ways of doing things?  

The response has been largely very positive with Near Me up and running and well  established in care homes for Older People. Services understand that using technology  such as Near Me is not just for during the pandemic but can be used longer term. Of  course, face to face contact will always be preferred by some, and the use of technology  is not suitable for everyone but having both options is now much more productive and  efficient for staff, those experiencing care and their families.

What difference has this made to people? 

Knowing that services can continue to provide excellent care to their residents by using  Near Me to contact and utilise services in health and social care is a big relief both for  staff and loved ones. It has allowed staff to make the best use of the technology they  have to hand and strengthen relationships with professionals involved in the resident’s  care. Not having to travel during the pandemic to visit with health professionals is also a  comfort to an already at-risk and vulnerable group in Older People care homes.

How did this make you feel?  

I feel proud to have been a small part of this very hard-working and dedicated  improvement team who rolled out the use of Near Me during this time.

Reflecting on your experiences what have you learned? 

The contact with services has been very rewarding and being able to hear first-hand the  type of challenges and successes that homes have had has been invaluable to my personal learning. I can now see what kind of investment and priority we should all  consider going forward with technology in general within the social care sector.

What difference has it made to you to tell your story as part of this project?  

I really appreciate the chance to share this work with you all, and to deepen people’s  interest in what is available out there through virtual technology and how it can grow in  the future.