Digital innovation and online COVID learning celebrated at Our Health Heroes

Our Health Heroes, the health awards led by Skills for Health, celebrated nationwide achievements at their fifth awards ceremony last night.

It took place on the National Day of Reflection, which marked a year since the first UK COVID-19 lockdown.

Award winners included many ‘unsung heroes’ in the healthcare sector, as well as tech and digital teams from across the country, whose dedication to the job during the past year and the pandemic were highlighted in the online awards, where over 300 NHS and Social Care staff gathered virtually.

Health tech professionals noted for their service came in the form of Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s (GHNHS) Learning Technology Team and a ‘digital duo’ from Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) and the The Health Informatics Service.

The Gloucestershire team were named Learning and Development Team of the Year for their critical COVID-19 respiratory eLearning package, the quick delivery of which helped more staff get the skills they needed to care for people with respiratory problems, ‘within days of the COVID-19 outbreak’. GHNHS’ team were selected out of 100 who’d been nominated in that category.

John Rogers, Chief Executive at Skills for Health, said: “Edward and his Team exemplify just why we hold these awards – to bring national recognition to those who produce extraordinary work and demonstrate absolute commitment to their jobs, and without whom, our NHS and healthcare sector would simply not be the same. This award is a testament to their hard work, dedication and sheer tenacity to improving skills and patient outcomes, at such a crucial time.”

The GHNHS team addressed the ‘knowledge gap’ for non-respiratory nurses and clinicians who were being diverted from their specialities to be redeployed, often at short notice, onto COVID-19 wards where they were suddenly caring for patients experiencing complex respiratory symptoms.

Rather than wait for a national or international solution, GHNHS decided to develop an in-house solution. Edward Iles, Learning Technology Manager, and his team managed to deliver a ‘Critical Respiratory eLearning Package’, within just five days of asking.

The team joined forces with the Trust’s Professional Education Team, experts who could provide the essential detail and, once live, the package was picked up by Health Education England (HEE), as well as others. Within its first few days of being live, it was shared with 50 Trusts nationally, followed by implementation in other countries, too.

On receiving the award Edward said: “The Team is incredibly proud of receiving this award. Although we do not work on the front line, the package was our contribution to the fight against COVID-19. From the outset, we planned to develop the training rapidly to be shared inside the trust, but we were incredibly proud when we started to get requests from external organisations. To see the package’s reach grow daily during March and April 2020, gave the whole team a great sense of achievement.”

The national awards also recognised Claire Sibbald, Transformation Manager at Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS FT and Richard Hill, Senior Collaboration Lead for The Health Informatics Service.

The pair were crowned Digital Innovation Team of the Year for their accelerated delivery of video appointments during COVID-19, which ‘digitally empowered’ clinicians to ensure patients could ‘receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time’.

Tasked with developing and rolling out video consultations across all services at the Trust, their work meant some of their most vulnerable patients had access to remote care very swiftly.

Helen Barker, Chief Operating Officer at CHFT said: “COVID-19 turned the NHS inside out but caring for patients and ensuring their care and appointments continued was paramount for us. Then up stepped Claire and Richard, and within such a short time our patients were being offered video appointments so they could stay in touch with our clinicians who were treating them, and during this time, nothing could be more important for them, or us.”

Working with Microsoft to pilot the consultation booking app, Richard and Claire produced infographics of operating policies, provided patient information in several languages and formats, and hosted live events remotely to demo to colleagues. They also set up ‘how-to’ guides with videos for patients and staff, piloted the process live with over fifty patients, over two days, and prepared all patients over the telephone, before training other staff to do the same.

Claire said: This award means a lot. There are so many people working incredibly hard in the NHS and other organisations right now, that it’s very humbling to receive an award for something that I consider as ‘just doing my job’. I don’t really feel it’s for me, everyone has had a part to play. It’s for every single person who has already and continues to put their trust in us, which has enabled us to implement a video appointment process at scale, in such an incredibly short space of time.”

Richard added: “We had a solution ready to go – it just needed implementing. Time was in short supply, yet I do believe, that the paths you cross along your way through life are planned for you. Meeting and working with Claire was a good path. Claire had the scope and the project management background, and I had the system knowledge and the enthusiasm, and this partnership began to evolve into a “work marriage” that could move mountains!”

To find out more about all of this year’s winners, or to watch the awards show on demand from 24 March, visit the Our Health Heroes website.