Learning from experience

Where have the last three months gone? Whichever side of the spectrum you were on, from health services working all out to preserve life to those with health conditions facing a lengthy lockdown, and everyone in between it’s probably fair to say that the last few months have been a blur.

And that’s not surprising. Keeping track of time depends on having a system of regular signposts along the way and when those signposts disappear so too can our perception of time. Even something as simple as a dentist’s appointment or having a drink with friends can help to act as a waypoint. So a combination of lockdown alongside a changed pattern of working and living has in a way left us living from day to day without our normal perception of time passing.

With the easing of lockdown we are now starting to build those markers again; booking appointments, making plans and stepping outside our immediate bubble. And although the virus hasn’t gone away it has eased enough to enable us to look back over recent months and to learn from our experiences.

Just to take one example, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) has launched a study to identify the rehabilitation needs of those affected by Covid-19. Following the three week study, which was launched on 13 July, the CSP intends to launch an interactive dashboard highlighting both the impact of Covid on physiotherapy services and identifying where future demand is likely to fall. To this end the CSP is calling on all of their members who work outside a hospital setting and who have treated an individual who has had a Covid-19 diagnosis to take part in the PACE study (physiotherapy after Covid evaluation).

Or to look at another example, recognising the impact which Covid has had across health services e-Learning for Healthcare (e-LfH) has opened up its online coronavirus training programme not only for those working in the NHS but also in the independent health sector and social care. The suite of resources available looks to provide appropriate learning and guidance to clinicians, health workers, supporters and volunteers across primary care and community settings.

Whilst both these initiatives are available on a national level, health practices may also decide to take stock of and build learning points from their own experiences over recent times. Undoubtedly the continuing requirement for social distancing alongside safe working practices will lead to immediate changes in procedures. But the lessons of Covid may also suggest other changes which could benefit the practice, its staff and its patients on an ongoing basis. These might include the digitisation of patient records in order to reduce manual handling of paperwork, a move to an online booking service in order to reduce casual callers, or a firming up of electronic payment systems in order to improve cash flow and reduce administration time.

The last few months may have passed in a blur and undoubtedly the fallout will continue some time to come. Nevertheless, taking time out to listen to the lessons of the past could help to deliver stronger future, not just in the treatment of Covid but also across the health service.