Group Consultations by Near Me video:  are you ready? by @marcbeswickahp and @LaurieEyles on behalf of the @NHSNearMe team.

This blog is aimed at people who have used Near Me before.

Group consultations are delivered by a clinician to a peer group of patients with similar health issues. This includes conditions like #Diabetes, #Asthma and #Anxiety. They are run in a safe and supportive way, often in a “community” setting, and have been offered by clinicians since 1905.1  Typically, they replace routine return appointments (in primary and secondary care) and are different from self-help, peer-support groups in that ‘their’ clinician leads the session. In group consultations, clinicians may typically consult with up to 10 patients over a 1-hour group slot, and until recently were mostly carried out in-person. All this changed due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Across the NHS, alongside other necessary precautions, many ‘in-person” group consultations immediately ceased. Since March 2020 while a few such groups have continued, albeit in an adapted form, they have not been accessible to all who needed and wished to attend. This had a detrimental effect on people’s health and wellbeing and further exacerbated clinical capacity and waiting lists.

Near Me, which is powered by @attendanywhere, is the approved free platform for video consultation across public services in Scotland. During Covid-19 healthcare appointments by video increased from 300 to 20,000 appointments per week but until recently the ability to use the #NearMe for Group Consultations was not possible. In December 2021, however, thanks to feedback from health and care professionals, #AttendAnywhere developed the platform to enable health and care professionals to host Group Consultations on Near Me.

Leading the way

Dieticians have led the way in their adoption of Near Me Group Consultations with the highest number of waiting areas set up so far. In March alone they provided 23 Group Consultations to 141 patients. Teams like the one led by @LaurieEyles @NHS_Lothian have been key pathfinders.

Here are some of our early findings gained from practical experiences that can be applied throughout health and care.

  • There is a bit more to running a Group Consultation compared to a standard Near Me call. Setting up a group takes more time and preparation.
  • Undertake some “practice groups” with colleagues to confirm you are ready to deliver your group to your patients.
  • Having a Group Consultation by Near Me is likely to be a new experience for most people. Therefore, it is good to have honest conversations with your group members to inform them that it may take a little time for it all to go smoothly. Most people will be incredibly grateful for your efforts to re-connect them to the supportive and effective environments groups can provide.
  • Finally, by way of preparation consider undertaking a test call/group with members prior to starting.

Patient Feedback

When we asked patients what they liked best about their video group consultation on Near Me some of their feedback included:

“Simple to use”

“Being able to join something remotely”

“Interacting with live people”

“Learning healthy tips”

Resources

Based on these findings and feedback from other clinicians and patients the Near Me team has developed a suite of resources to support professionals when setting up and running groups consultations using Near Me:

Coming Soon

Thanks to the ongoing engagement we are working with Attend Anywhere to ensure future versions of the platform will have both “Chat” and “Breakout Rooms” features.

Advice and Support

If you are new to Near Me here are links to some introductory guidance and training to get you started.

The National Near Me team is also available to provide advice and support. Please get in touch if we can help at all. We would love to hear how you get on and would appreciate any feedback and learning. You can contact us via email nss.nearme@nhs.scot or on Twitter @NHSNearMe  @marcbeswickahp

  1. Ezhumalai, S., Muralidhar, D., Dhanasekarapandian, R., & Nikketha, B. S. (2018). Group interventions. Indian journal of psychiatry, 60(Suppl 4), S514–S521. https://doi.org/10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_42_18

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