The South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw ICS Allied Health Profession (AHP) and Health Care Scientist (HCS) Digital Network has twenty-five members, representing a range of AHP and HCS professional groups.

The Network is a community of practice of leaders and clinicians with a range of skills, knowledge and expertise in technology and digital health care. Launching in October 2020 the network has an ambition to achieve four key activities:

  1. Scope and map the Allied Health Professional and Health Care Scientist capabilities and maturity with regards to digital services, including the exploration of  challenges and barriers to accessing opportunities for training and development.
  2. Ensuring that continuous professional development includes digital literacies to support current and future practice.
  3. Work with SYB Integrated Care System Digital Transformation Team and wider colleagues to support strategic developments and activities providing an AHP reference group to contribute, influence and provide a coherent response from an AHP perspective.
  4. Champion the implementation AHP digital framework. The AHP Digital Framework promotes digitally ready, mature and data enabled services (see NHS England and NHS Improvement).

Keeping the momentum going during a pandemic has not been easy but the Network has provided opportunities for connecting AHPs and HCS across the system, building awareness of local developments, identifying and sharing examples of innovation and working in partnership with the Integrated Care System (ICS) Digital Transformation team.

The Network is providing AHP and HCS with an opportunity to think strategically about how we respond to the NHS Long Term Plan. Members provide support for colleagues across the system, champion ‘digital innovation’ in their own organisations and provide a robust AHP and HCS perspective on digital transformation at system level.

The Network is part of a wider stakeholder engagement plan to develop a digital transformation strategy and vision in the SYB ICS. The primary focus for the last five months has been to engage with system wide work on defining a set of digital capabilities that could benefit the public - our role has been to offer our experience on prioritising these from an AHP and HCS perspective.  For example, accessing digital and remote technologies that enable patients to manage their own health and empower self-management of long-term health conditions. Potential benefits might include alerting the user to deterioration of health, providing earlier interventions, preventing hospital admission and reducing appointments for routine check-ups.

Digital solutions have been fundamental in responding the COVID-19 pandemic. Allied Health Professionals (AHP) and Health Care Scientists (HCS) have risen to this challenge by taking services online and providing digital alternatives such as developing new ways of working. The pandemic has facilitated innovative ways of working and creative thinking such as delivering patient interventions using video conferencing, developing new instructional videos and delivering remote rehabilitation. 

Digital platforms have enabled AHPs and HCS to maintain services during the pandemic, provide consultations online ‘mask free’ and protect the vulnerable in our communities. We have learnt a great deal about what works and what doesn’t work online and we are now starting to think about what we will take forwards in the future, blending technology and digital approaches to complement and enhance services currently provided.

AHPs and HCS see the potential for digitally enabled services and the power to improve health, care and wellbeing of our public, giving patients and service users control over their own health and daily life. The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a roadmap to increasing the range of digital health tools and services available, supporting the development of new technological innovations, which can help patients and their enablers benefit from health and care services from the comfort of their own homes. The network is ready to respond to this ambition and support innovation locally.

Our next challenge is to explore how we blend digital services with usual care, reflect on what we have learnt over the last year and start to think about how we take this learning forwards, building on the opportunity that improved digital access has provided. The AHP and HCS Digital Network is a dynamic social movement of interested and active clinicians and leaders, we have gained strength from this collective approach and this is only the beginning of our story.

During the COVID-19 pandemic Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) wanted to keep in touch with parents and teachers who were providing support to children receiving treatment. YouTube videos were created to ensure that children received effective therapy while SLTs are unable to carry out their in-person sessions

 “As we were unable to do this in person we decided to create YouTube videos to demonstrate specific therapy interventions, to ensure that children continued to receive effective support during the pandemic. Once a child has been assessed and therapy targets agreed the appropriate instructional videos are sent to the school and/or family with the accompanying resources and a comprehensive information sheet. This included a step-by-step guide to achieving the therapy targets. The feedback that we collected indicated that the videos were an effective tool for supporting school staff to provide speech and language interventions. The SLTs who have been using the videos as part of their therapy package have reported that they feel increased confidence that the therapy will be delivered effectively and that the videos are saving clinical time”.

The videos will continue to be a valuable part of the SLT’s ‘toolkit’ when normal service resumes.

Check out the online video about this project