Blog / NDS and Covid-19

Nicholas Hay: June 02, 2020

Like many other public sector teams across Scotland, the impact of Covid-19 on NES Digital Service (NDS) has been profound. Who would have guessed when NDS was set up in 2018, that 2020 would be the year that would drastically change not only the way we work, but also the fundamental nature of how we design services for a post-Covid Scotland?

Our remit is to create a National Digital Platform for health and social care information, giving appropriate access to the right people at the right time. We’ve been building the underpinning architecture through the development of different products, services and applications. Before Covid-19, our work focused on a number of areas affecting health and social care, including ReSPECT (a digital process to help people say what kind of care they want in an emergency if they are unable to communicate), Cancer Treatment Summaries and Endocrinology to name a few. One of our mantras has been the need to create ‘kind technology’ – by asking the question, ‘what would it be like if every interaction a person has with health and care technology made them feel cared for?’.

Since Covid-19, that mantra has been brought into sharp focus by the huge uptake in the number of people using technology to access health and care services.  Now more than ever, making sure our products and services are designed in a way that ultimately improves the health of people in Scotland is paramount.  

How things have changed

Undoubtedly, Covid-19 has changed both the way we work and the nature of what we do. Working remotely, our teams have been redesigned to respond to the current challenge, and are now working on a number of new priority projects to be delivered within a short timeframe to help protect the health of people in Scotland:

Shielding Service

Our first Covid-19 response involved helping to develop an SMS Shielding Service. Towards the end of March, the Scottish Government issued guidance to around 150,000 people in Scotland with certain pre-existing conditions, advising them to self-isolate to protect themselves from the virus.

Within a two week timeframe, NES Digital Service helped the Scottish Government develop a text messaging service to get groceries and medication delivered to the homes of shielding people. We've worked with the Scottish Government, Local Authorities and private sector partners to keep people safe from Covid-19 and we're proud to say that over 8,000 grocery parcels are now being delivered each day.

Eyecare

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely restricted Community Optometry Services, with many closing their doors since controls to limit the virus were implemented. However, there’s still a need to treat patients in an emergency. NDS has been working with colleagues in NHS Grampian and NHS Forth Valley on the ‘Eyecare’ product – this service introduces a leading open source electronic patient record (EPR) for ophthalmology called ‘Openeyes’  onto the National Digital Platform, to enable virtual consultations with patients and to share the information needed to treat patients between optometrists and ophthalmologists. The service went live on 11th May and is already making a difference to Optometry services in NHS Grampian and NHS Forth Valley. Follow us on Twitter for more Eyecare updates.

Essential ACP (Anticipatory Care Planning)

The Covid-19 pandemic has also brought into sharp focus the need to have what can be difficult conversations, particularly around end-of-life care. One of NDS’s key projects has focused on the ReSPECT process – an application to help people digitally record how they wish to be treated in an emergency.  Whilst this project remains a priority for NDS, we’ve been working with Healthcare Improvement Scotland to create a summary version of ReSPECT during the Covid-19 pandemic. This ‘Essential ACP’ aims to improve the quality of information that gets shared in a patient’s Key Information Summary and to give some tips to professionals who have been asked to have these conversations for the first time. 

Dignity and health in a post-Covid Scotland

Making sure that our digital health and care interventions treat people with dignity and respect continues to be a focus for NDS. We’ve been speaking to colleagues across sectors, such as the Scottish Rural Mental Health Forum, to help us consider how our products and services are inclusive for everyone, regardless of their circumstances. We’ll be talking more about this in future blogs, so stay tuned.

Covid-19 has brought challenges to many different types of people when it comes to using and engaging with public services. At NDS, we are interested in how pre-existing and new services adapt and evolve, and how they might do so in a way that equality, accessibility and ultimately kindness are at the heart of provision, not an afterthought.  

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