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Patients’ Covid feedback shapes future of hospital physiotherapy

Changes hospital physiotherapists made to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic are now shaping the future of the care they give.

The Joint Health Team at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust turned to video conferencing, YouTube and other online methods to help treat and advise patients throughout the lock-down.

The team provides specialist assessment, investigations and treatment for patients across Southport, Formby and West Lancashire with musculoskeletal conditions (problems with muscles, joints or spine). But because of the pandemic, they were unable to see patients in the usual way, despite their services being essential for many.

The service, which includes specialist physiotherapy consultant, specialist doctors and consultants in musculoskeletal medicine, specialist physiotherapists, advanced practice physiotherapists, and podiatrists and specialist occupational hand therapist, looked to other ways to help their patients.

With some staff redeployed, remaining team members dug out their devices and took to the internet to provide education sessions, advice services and even circuit classes via video link.

Specialists are also now able to assess patients’ condition in a virtual way and offer further support about how they can continue their treatment at home via instant messaging.

Laura Atherton, Consultant Musculoskeletal (MSK) Physiotherapy Practitioner, said: “At the start all we really had was a phone to talk to our patients. But as things developed and we started to use instant messaging and video, we began to get really good feedback from people.

“We began using something called ‘digital supertrack’ which allowed us to review people’s progress through their mobile device and then recommend changes to their treatment or different exercises to move-on to – all through instant messaging.

“In fact, this has been so popular that, we are now looking at how we can continue this virtual work with patients when we return to more ‘normal’ times.

“We were able to run a number of classes about pain, the social aspect of living with an MSK condition and also help both individuals and groups with their exercise and physical programmes.

“It just goes to show that people not only embrace new ways of working but often actually prefer doing things in a different way. We are very keen to explore how we can continue to work in a more flexible way in the future.”