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Communicating guidance for clinicians through the pandemic

It is fair to say that the last few months have been tough for the healthcare sector.

I am not trying to create sympathy – after all, hundreds of thousands of people across the country have been personally and tragically affected by Covid-19.

And every single one of us – whether they are my colleagues in Virgin Care, our partners in the NHS or other key worker organisations – have been buoyed by the support we have received from members of the public.

But the onslaught of coronavirus has been an issue of epic proportions – and it has meant organisations like ours have had to change everything we do at super-quick speed to make sure we are part of the response and that we do all we can to help.

Many of our health and social care services have gone online to keep our employees and our service user’s safe – with virtual consultations for everything from breastfeeding classes to advice and support for teenagers.

More than a thousand of our colleagues were redeployed into new work areas very different from their usual roles. And our teams have stepped up to the plate taking on more cases and doing all they can to keep people safe and out of hospital helping the NHS to increase its capacity to treat Covid patients in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) during the peak.

Understandably, the changes have been deep-rooted, difficult and at times demanding.

However, one of the top priorities of our response here at Virgin Care has been to keep our colleagues well informed with the ever-changing advice that has come out since the start of the pandemic, whether that is around specific clinical care requirements, social distancing or the correct use of PPE.

And we’ve used several methods to do this. In fact, as the government was bringing in new safety guidelines for health workers we were rolling that out in real-time and making sure our colleagues knew what it meant and how it would impact on the way they did their job of caring.

As a health and social care provider, we deliver more than 400 services across the country. And our ability as an organisation to communicate with our thousands of frontline workers – many of whom are working on shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week – has proved to be effective in helping our services to adapt.

From day one we have had to check and process a large amount of information on a daily basis while ensuring the correct individuals were receiving, reading and understanding it.

The main source of information has been our dedicated Covid-19 page on our intranet. This is where all colleagues access the most up to date information and guidance released by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the NHS, Public Health England (PHE), the National Institute for Health and Care and our own Virgin Care guidance and policies.

We have been publishing detailed updates there every day for the last couple of months to make it simple for our colleagues to find what’s relevant to them.

But we understand that it is difficult for all of our colleagues to find a spare five minutes in their busy day to check our Covid-19 page.

So we made a point of communicating the most important guidance through weekly round-up emails as well.

Within these updates we would link to our Covid-19 page, and discuss key policy and guidance changes, wellbeing support and government and PHE messaging.

In addition, as our managers needed to understand these new ways of working we ensured that daily managers’ updates were sent by email as well. That way everyone was on the same page.

These updates would also include key messages extracted from our National Incident Control Team meetings, news from the DHSC and any updates on procurement, corporate support, people, quality and guidance.

Our CEO Dr Vivienne McVey also made it her responsibility to personally address our colleagues once a week on a Wednesday morning through a video message. This personal approach was very well received and – as well as updating us all on changes to government guidance, personal protective equipment and our internal policies – she would, importantly, remind us all to look after our wellbeing.

What we have been doing has helped our colleagues keep safe, keep well and be able to keep on providing quality care for all they people they see. We know that colleagues have gone above and beyond to stay updated, and by creating so many different formats of communications we have successfully catered for everyone and made sure that messages have been received by all.

And as lockdown eases we know that all the work we did to bring about change counted then and still counts now. The pandemic has become business as usual for us, and while we – like everyone else look on with hope as the number of cases drop, we are prepared as ever we can to step up  to the plate again.

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