Listening and learning from people who experience barriers to digital services and interventions by Katie Masterson, Physiotherapist, NHS Borders. @KatieM_ahpmh #AHPCFS2022 @NESnmahp #dNMAHP

Hello my name is Katie Masterson. I am a physiotherapist working with people across mental health services in NHS Borders.  During 2021/22, I have been undertaking an NHS Education for Scotland (NES) Allied Health Professions (AHP) career fellowship. My project is exploring how to improve accessto Digital AHP Interventions in Mental Health Services. This includes adults living with Dementia and people requiring longer term rehabilitation needs due to their mental health.

So why is this topic important?

During the first wave of the Covid 19 pandemic we noticed that there was a low uptake of offers of video appointments and signposting to digital resources that were available.  There was rapid change in the way we were delivering services. I was keen to explore and understand what the barriers to accessing Digital support were from people with lived experience of the services we provide. We could learn and alter our approach with the aim of developing a more person-centred model; enabling easier more equitable access for people.

This project uses Borders Co-Production Charter principles.  Initially the plan was to meet with people face to face through user and carer forums and access a wide range of views of people with lived experience of our AHP services.  Due to the on-going Covid 19 pandemic risks and restrictions; the project has had to adapt and travel a different route. I asked people with lived experience in informal discussions during appointments with physiotherapy rather than the broader AHP professions.

Working with people who said they were digitally excluded, meant using digital means to garner their experiences was not an option!

The project was Covid 19 compliant. Conversations were had sensitively when digital appointments were suggested; I asked whether people were able to accept these; I explored what mattered and worked for them. These conversations were honest about the fellowship project, and seeking opinions so we could improve of our services.

This gave opportunities for 1:1 personalised information. I gave tasters of the Near Me platform through side-by-side demonstration using a work phone and person’s own device if they wanted to know more, or to resolve practical issues.

The direct feedback about why some people found Near Me inaccessible gave me focus. Having discussed findings with the local Near Me team I volunteered our physio team as early implementers of the new “Consult Now” feature when rolled out across our area.

Has It Made A Difference?

“Consult now” has been used successfully for 1 month now with positive outcomes for people.

For example:

  • Delivered treatment via video to person who previously couldn’t access standard Near Me and self-isolation prevented hospital based appointment.
  • Feedback so far includes:
    • “So much easier that the original Near Me way and we were actually able to connect this time!”
    • “Quicker and easier”

The easier connectivity of “Consult Now” in MH physiotherapy interventions for patients enables a blended approach for clinical need, personal preference and ability.

One size does not fit all. Our patients can still have face to face or telephone appointments with us.

There are service benefits too, particularly for a rural NHS Board. Increased uptake of video consults resulted in “saving” of 3 hours travel time this month, giving more appointments, and environment friendly too.

Why it is important to take the co- production approach to service development

It “combines our mutual strengths and capacities so that we can work with one another on an equal basis to achieve positive change” reference: Borders Co- production charter

We gain accurate insight about the barriers people experience. This has taken me and my team’s skills further, faster.

I am excited to share this blog to encourage other AHP’s to offer video appointments as a choice to people, and ensure staff try the new Consult now feature within Near Me with people as it is more accessible

The AHP fellowship scheme gave opportunity to enquire and network beyond my local reach. I have had the privilege of learning from people with lived experience, community volunteers and staff across Scotland about approaches and solutions. I was given transferable ideas and knowledge.

Thanks to everyone who has worked with me on this, People have shared their time, thoughts, knowledge and experience and made this progress.

To find out more about this project, please drop me an email. Twitter: @KatieM_ahpmh


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