On March 23rd 2020, the Prime Minister announced measures for the country to lock down in a bid to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. This included instructions for all UK citizens to only travel to work if necessary and if they could not work from home. Employers across the country had to move quickly to enable home working for services and health providers had to do the same while keeping services running for those who most needed them.
Our Single Points of Access and Care Co-ordination Centres are a crucial service, receiving all requests for support, allocating work to staff and providing a friendly, helpful voice at the end of a phone or an email for parents, families, service users, GPs and others.
Our centres across England serve populations of several million, so getting the teams working remotely was essential to keeping services running, and using our virtual call centre technology and an flexible operating model we were able to quickly allow colleagues to work from home without interrupting services.
With how long the pandemic will continue to require us to work from home very uncertain, it was important the solution we put in place was sustainable and allowed us to continue supporting the people who rely on us – and continue delivering vital NHS Community Services.
One area where we faced this challenge was in our new Lancashire Healthy Young People and Families Services, which deliver vital public health services and rely on a Single Point of Access team.
We needed to enable our administration colleagues to be able to work remotely keeping them safe and continuing to deliver services.
But while we operate a digital first focus and encourage all partner agencies to communicate electronically, we still receive some paper post meaning there was a need to still have a physical presence at the office.
Our administration and IT teams, supported by service design colleagues, worked swiftly over a three-week period to ensure that SPA colleagues had the extra equipment they needed to work from home. We already had virtual call centre technology in place but introduced additional telephony software so that staff were able to take calls on their laptops.
New rotas were created to best support the service and a skeleton staff continue to attend the three admin hubs in Preston, Burnley and Lancaster daily to process paper-based work .
To help tackle the isolation of working alone, we introduced daily video meetings.
The SPA team operates a duty rota for school nurses and health visitors. The majority of the duty colleagues are those self-isolating or shielding, freeing up others to continue face-to-face appointments where still necessary.
The move has increased productivity and brought teams closer together.
Implementing the virtual Single Point of Access in Lancashire has delivered its objectives, allowing us to continue to deliver services for those who need them.
Call volumes have actually dropped slightly during the pandemic, reflecting a trend across the health service, but this has allowed the teams to clear a small waiting time for referrals to be processed.
The greater connectivity has helped bridge gaps in understanding between administrative functions based in the Single Point of Access service and clinicians.
As a result of all of this work, families across Lancashire have continued to be able to speak to their Healthy Young People and Families Service. And although we’ve continued some face to face visits where essential and safety measures are taken, thanks to other innovations such as virtual clinics we’ve been able to continue to support families across the county.
And we’ll continue to be able to support them no matter how long restrictions continue – our implementation can work indefinitely, providing an equitable and fair service and preventing any backlogs from developing.
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