How can we ensure the NHS retain digital improvements post COVID-19?Portia Chauhan
How can we ensure the NHS retain digital improvements post COVID-19?
The NHS have done a remarkable job tackling the greatest global health crisis in a generation, and the language industry has been forced to evolve concurrently to continue to provide communication support successfully.
As the UK prepares to traverse the post-COVID landscape, we ask how we can ensure that the altered digital services that we have offered to the NHS stay in place and continue to support those in need.
While many parts of the UK economy are opening up, Public Health England are still on high alert. Local spikes and regional lockdowns, like the ones seen in Leicester and the Greater Manchester area, will likely become commonplace as the year progresses. The unpredictable future of the virus is why stable, reliable, and high-quality language services are an essential part of the UK’s COVID-19 recover.
As a larger proportion of the population are now able to be tested, including vulnerable groups which have been isolated in the community, the use of telephone interpreting is essential in ensuring that PHE’s testing scheme is fully accessible.
- Telephone interpreting can be used from any device, providing there is network connection.
- Using the speakerphone function, service users can remain a safe distance apart at mobile testing sites.
- Telehealth interpreting services, primarily telephone interpreting, has been used effectively out in the community to screen families before home visits.
The inclusivity of the second stage of the COVID-19 response is particularly important given that data from both UK and international settings indicate that individuals from BAME backgrounds are being disproportionately affected by the virus.
Since the UK moved into lock-down at the end of March, hospital admissions for non-COVID-19 related circumstances have dropped sharply.
In March, there was a 29.4% decrease in hospital attendees from the same period last year. This number is expected to experience a surge as the country slowly opens up and cancer services resume, and the continued uptake of our immediate remote communication support will be essential in ensuring that non-English speaking patients and those with sensory impairments are able to access these services again.
- Telephone interpreting has been successfully implemented over A&E departments across the country to provide immediate cover for un-planned patient needs and is fully operational 24/7.
- Video interpreting is being utilised as the NHS begins to reinstate pre-planned appointments to provide communication support with visual cues, while still adhering to social distancing to ensure there isn’t a rapid spike in infections.
Video interpreting has proven to be particularly popular for telehealth and social appointments during the crisis as it replicates the personable relationship between professional and service user which provides comfort for many.
- The conference feature of our video interpreting service – Wordskii live – can help build the important relationship between the health and social care sectors, establishing continuing strong local responses to any cluster outbreaks.
The first stage of the UK’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has drawn to a close, but the role that the language industry must play in providing communication support is far from over. By continuing to provide digital support to the NHS, we can ensure that the trajectory of the virus continues in a downward fashion.