NHS Tayside volunteer activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
Following the suspension of face-to-face activities due to the pandemic, NHS Tayside has continued to engage with its volunteers to help them stay connected, reduce feelings of isolation and make them feel valued.
NHS Tayside's Volunteering Team developed a step-by-step guide on how to use Zoom and this was used to provide training to the volunteers. An initial “test” call was organised and which volunteers found helpful. Zoom was then used for group chats and 1-2-1s with the volunteers. For volunteers who either did not have access to Zoom or preferred not to use virtual methods, they were offered phone calls instead and some chose this option.
In June 2020, volunteers who are part of the NHS Tayside Public Partner group, were provided training on how to join virtual meetings using Microsoft Teams. This training enabled Public Partners to continue their involvement throughout the pandemic. To ensure all Public Partners were able to be involved additional methods were used including the use of surveys, telephone calls, emailing and sending hard copies of documents for review, as well as holding online meetings.
Activities the Public Partners were involved in during the pandemic included:
- Participating in a virtual Cancer Care Centre Workshop held using Microsoft Teams. The purpose of the workshop was to identify options for a new Cancer Care Centre in Tayside. This included considering location, services to be provided and impacts on patient experience. A scoring exercise was undertaken and several Public Partners required support in submitting this documentation.
- Participating in a series of virtual Tayside Elective Care Centre Workshops held using Microsoft Teams. Public Partners have contributed to sessions on what the future model of care will look like, the potential building design and the delivery model. These workshops have allowed planning to continue on the Tayside Elective Care Centre.
- Review of an anticipatory ‘Just in Case Box’ patient and carer information leaflet where they were asked to provide comments and views, highlight any gaps and consider the tone and design of leaflets to promote the emergency ‘at–home’ medication boxes.
- Review of a Near Me patient information leaflet to be given to patients to ensure they have adequate communication on the requirements for their connectivity and allows them to test out their devices at home prior to their appointment date. Public Partners were asked to provide comment on the leaflet to ensure that it is patient and public friendly.
- Contribute to the development of a Palliative and End of Life Care webpage. The link to the draft webpage was shared and Public Partners were asked if it was easy to navigate, is it understandable and concise, virtually appealing and was the information helpful.
- Sharing their views and experiences during public engagement on Urgent and Emergency Care. The purpose of the engagement was to gain insight into patient and family and the general public’s experiences of accessing urgent and emergency care to inform new pathways in response to COVID-19 via virtual sessions.
- Participating in virtual Mental Health Stakeholder Participation Workshops during which a meeting was held with Board members and other key stakeholders to share progress on the Listen, Learn, Change Action Plan following the Independent Inquiry into Mental Health Services in Tayside.
To keep the Public Partners informed, the following were also shared:
- Scottish Government Stay Safe Notices
- Link to NHS Inform website
- How to access GP Practices over Public Holidays
- Pharmacy opening times over Public Holidays
- A quarterly Public Partner newsletter which focused on development of services and service delivery as a result of COVID-19
For NHS Volunteer Week staff from across the organisation created a video to recognise the important roles carried out by all of the NHS Tayside volunteers, including Public Partners. The Chair of NHS Tayside recorded a video message to thank all volunteers on behalf of the Board.
Evaluation and learning
Volunteers appreciated meeting up virtually. Online meetings worked well when there was a structure and someone to host the meeting. As time went on, more volunteers joined the meetings as they heard positive feedback about them from other volunteers.
During initial calls where group numbers were larger, volunteers provided feedback that it was difficult to hear everyone. As a result, group numbers for some calls with the volunteers were limited to ten to allow everyone to hear and participate. Some Public Partners didn’t have full functionalities of Microsoft Teams on their devices. This was overcome by sharing alternative options. This has included sharing information by email and also sending hard copies of documents where preferred.
Measures to control the COVID-19 pandemic, including lockdown restrictions, created a challenge for traditional ways of engaging with people. In order to let Public Partners have ‘their say’ and help shape how NHS Tayside will engage with its communities in the future, a survey was created to determine which methods have been using throughout the pandemic to get involved and most importantly, what has worked well, what hasn’t worked well and how they would wish to be involved. Feedback was very positive with all respondents intimating they would use Microsoft Teams again to engage. The use of online meetings allowed the organisation to step-up focus groups and participation for a number of business critical programmes which have continued throughout the pandemic.
Teams meetings on the whole are very enjoyable, very well structured and efficiently moderated.
NHS Tayside Public Partner
Virtual meetings should have been adopted at scale long before the pandemic.
NHS Tayside Public Partner