Communicating with localities and families

Frontline staff continue to put a great emphasis on being there for the people in their care and giving them the extra support they may need while restrictions are in place.

Many trusts have developed their own compassionate approaches to implementing the new guidance for patients at the end of their lives or those who are particularly vulnerable, prioritising ways to allow patients to communicate with their families, as well as looking at how they can effectively reach the communities they serve.


Ask Alice

Liverpool NHS Foundation Trust 

Liverpool NHS Foundation Trust wanted to create an engaging campaign that offered valuable information but in a unique and innovative way, with a human touch and a 'face-to-face' quality to make up for the challenges of social distancing and restrictions on NHS services that COVID-19 has resulted in.

Their team knew regular video content could potentially offer an engaging method of communication that would be appreciated and welcomed by our target audience and would be a more accessible format for digesting key messages. As a result, Ask Alice was born.

The team aimed to respond to queries and questions from mothers to be via a series of short, recorded video messages from our team of clinical experts. After speaking to a number of team members to ask for their support, the trust decided to work with Alice Bird, a consultant obstetrician. They named the campaign Ask Alice and began promoting it across all of their public facing communication channels.

The process involved the communications team monitoring the trust's social media channels (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and selecting unanswered questions from patients and families. These were then provided to Alice and other members of the maternity team who replied with their answer via a short video clip. The communications team then posted the videos as a new Ask Alice social media post.


Talking therapies podcast

North East London NHS Foundation Trust 

The Redbridge talking therapies team have provided additional support to the local community and beyond during the outbreak of COVID-19 with a series of podcasts to help clients, staff and the public to develop their coping skills in these challenging times. The podcast series was designed as a useful tool for those who may require some support but do not feel ready to engage in therapy, or for those who are awaiting therapy to begin.

Each podcast features members of the Redbridge talking therapies team, guiding the listener in strategies for coping with worry, low mood, isolation, loneliness, relaxation and mindfulness.

The series has already had more than 1250 listens, with most users listening on their smartphone. The most popular episodes being Time to relax, Managing racial based stress and trauma, and Sleeping through a crisis. The statistics below give an indication of the popularity of the podcasts, with numbers continuing to increase weekly.


Use of DrDoctor mass broadcasting functionality

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust 

DrDoctor have provided an SMS reminder solution to Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust since 2014. In the years since, the system has been exploited to include, digital questionnaires and video consultations, as well as the reminder service being enhanced to include the ability for patients to change/cancel their appointments, defined reminder types and more recently, the ability for patients to choose a remote consultation.

In addition to the above, new broadcast messaging functionality has enabled staff to send a broadcast message to large cohorts of patients (up to 10,000 at once) via SMS. Since March 2020 the trust have sent in excess of 32,000 SMS messages to patients. As part of their COVID-19 response, the mass broadcast functionality has been used to:

  • share the latest advice from the trust and Public Health England regarding the COVID-19 virus, i.e., the requirement to wear a face covering when attending the hospital
  • inform patients that they shouldn’t attend their appointments to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus
  • inform patients about cancellations or changes to clinic locations and to their appointments, i.e., conversion to telephone or video consultation appointments
  • send patients the latest advice from their clinicians regarding their treatment pathway and COVID-19.


Use of Nervecentre during COVID-19

Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust

Nottingham University Hospitals is a well-established user of Nervecentre’s mobile electronic patient record for electronic observations, task management, handover, patient assessments and bed management. The trust have been able to respond effectively to the evolving demands of the pandemic with rapid internal developments to Nervecentre.

Some examples of how the system has been adapted to support clinical pathways during this time include:

  • development of specific handover fields to track COVID-19 information – including date of onset of symptoms, overall COVID status, swab results and bed requirements
  • sending a critical result task to a patient’s current doctor’s mobile device immediately a positive COVID-19 result was reported by the laboratory – reducing time to isolation and treatment
  • automating handover updates when COVID-19 swab results are received
  • creation of a COVID Overview handover profile to bring together key information for clinical and operational teams streaming patients.


Have a heart – Stay apart

North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust

To highlight social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust launched its own campaign, Have a heart – Stay apart, calling on the public to remain at least two metres apart.

It was really important to the trust at the start of the campaign to get the backing of other local agencies. The trust’s communications and marketing team, who edited and produced all messages, worked with neighbouring health trusts, councils, police forces and fire services who all fully supported the sharing all of our materials. Using strong social media messaging, the premise of the campaign was to make it relatable, using everyday items to express how far two metres is.

This began by using things everyone can relate to, such as a three seat sofa or three shopping trolleys. It then focused directly on health staff, using items such as hospital beds, stethoscopes, visors and crash trolleys. It put the spotlight on the local community, using Teesside analogies such as staying ten parmos (a local delicacy of chicken, cheese and béchamel sauce) apart or 25 lemon tops (a local seaside favourite of delicious ice cream with a dollop of lemon sorbet popped on the top).


Communicating with children

Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust

The pandemic has been scary for many children. The world had changed, they were cut off at home and they felt different. Hospitals were scarier and PPE was terrifying. But all the information around them was aimed at adults.

To help children and young people, Sheffield Children's NHS Foundation Trust started developing materials aimed at them, to explain, reassure and support them. This included simple visual guides, graphics, easy-read documents, weekly newspaper supplements, resource packs for schools and more than 200 videos – including one about looking after your mental health for BBC Newsround. Tools like widget symbols and closed captioning helped add to accessibility.

Information was shared through patient letters, media, social media, schools and adopted by other trusts. Resources have been downloaded 77k times from the trust’s website.