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Christmas funding averts a health crisis

15th July 2021 | By Liz Mattock | Posted in

A Leicester patient narrowly avoided a life-threatening health crisis, thanks to attending an online event funded by the local NHS.

David Newby has a long-term lung condition and in February 2021, shortly after testing positive for Covid-19, he and his wife, Brenda, attended a virtual health event through his GP surgery, Highgate Medical Centre in Loughborough. The session gave advice and top tips on dealing with Covid-19, including how to test your blood oxygen levels using a pulse oximeter.

The life-saving session was one of a series of virtual health events called Project Boost, arranged for patients by Highgate Medical Practice and funded though the Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Groups (LLR CCGs) Twelve Days of Christmas initiative.

The following day, David tested his blood oxygen levels using a home oximeter and found that they were life threateningly low. Brenda rang the surgery and reported a deterioration in David’s condition and that his oxygen levels were only 87-90%.

As a result, David received emergency assessment and treatment, followed by prescriptions and a daily follow-up by his GP Dr James Coleman.

Brenda said: “Attending the event saved David’s life as we had not appreciated the seriousness of the situation and what the oxygen probe readings meant. Having daily follow up from our GP Dr James Coleman was brilliant.”

The Twelve Days of Christmas initiative was set up last November, when colleagues from the CCGs, GP practices and third sector organisations across LLR were invited to submit innovative and creative ideas for one-off projects that will help to improve the health and wellbeing of patients or staff working in primary care, or to make improvements to services for the benefit of patients.Each of the projects could bid for up to £5,000 and the CCGs announced the winners on each of the twelve working days leading up to Christmas.

Nicci Briggs, Executive Director of Finance for the LLR CCGs, said: “2020 really was a year like no other and we all needed a little something to get us into the Christmas spirit of sharing and caring for each other, for our patients and for our communities. We wanted a wide range of people, both NHS colleagues and community stakeholders, to get involved in developing and submitting their ideas for improvement across the health system

“Our panel of independent judges, including clinicians and patient representatives, received more than 90 project proposals. We were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and the collective desire to innovate, transform and support patients, communities and staff across LLR.

“The standard of entries was incredible, so much so that we found it impossible to limit the selection to just twelve, and we ended up with sixteen winners. Each project we funded supported one of three themes: firstly, well-being, resilience and self-care; secondly, innovative ways to provide care; and thirdly, supporting our communities.”

Now, six months on, the CCGs have been evaluating the impact of the winning proposals.

Project Boost, at Highgate Medical Centre, was a series of online health events on topics including mental health, the covid pandemic, community resilience, identifying possible cancer symptoms and practical advice on how to reduce the risk of spreading infections within your home. The social prescriber at the practice gave information on dealing with social isolation, job losses and mental health strain and patients contributed essays and ‘a day in the life’ diaries to build an archive of life during the pandemic.

Local charity, the Jalaram Sadavrat Trust, delivered an average of 100 hot Indian meals each day to members of the community in Loughborough who were elderly or housebound and shielding because of the pandemic. As they made their deliveries, they used to opportunity to have a chat and check on people’s wellbeing. They are now planning to open a Community Hub to alleviate social isolation for people in the Loughborough area.

Victoria Park Medical Practice set up the Respiratory Education Support for Pharmacist (RESP) Training Programme, which trains pharmacists to review medication and give advice to patients with respiratory conditions such as lung disease, asthma and COPD. This training programme is now being extended to cover the whole LLR area, with the aim of pharmacists being able to help more patients stay well and reduce the need for them to go into hospital.

The ECG Project gave patients better access to ECG (electro-cardiogram) tests, which led to quicker diagnosis of atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeats) in patients who were at high risk of developing this potentially life-threatening condition. ECG tests were given at short appointments whilst observing social distancing, as this particular test requires no physical contact to be made. Out of 51 patients who were tested during this small-scale pilot project, three were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation and four were referred for further assessment, which means that they were able to receive any treatment that was needed.

Other winning projects included:

  • The Centre Project – delivery of Christmas and New Year food and toiletries to people in need
  • Breath in a Bag – self-care support at home to help people with COPD, to help them manage and live with this long term condition
  • Art of Brilliance – sessions to support CCG staff during lockdown
  • Ultrasound scanning and respiratory diagnostic testing in GP practices, enabling faster patient diagnosis and more convenient access to services
  • Activity programmes in the community for wheelchair users
  • Mental Health First Aid Training for staff in GP practices
  • Suicide prevention training– a project to strengthen frontline suicide prevention through evidence-based training for GPs and primary care staff.

Dr Mayur Lakhani, GP at Highgate Medical Practice and Chair of West Leicestershire CCG, said: “This initiative provided us with a chance to bring forward new ideas which met the core objectives of the three CCGs, but which may not otherwise have been possible. We were delighted that our GP practice was one of the successful applicants and we’re really pleased with the outcomes of Project Boost. It shows the importance of empowered patients who know how to manage their conditions and use tele-health gadgets at home.”

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