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The importance the role of technology plays in the NHS during the COVID-19 outbreak

The importance the role of technology plays in the NHS during the COVID-19 outbreak
03 June 2020

We recently spoke to Miles Callum from our Physiotherapy out-patients service at Whitby Hospital.

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the physio team began implementing social distancing and utilising online services, such as Teleheath appointments, rather than their usual face-to-face sessions. These digital platforms play a vital role in enabling the team to continue to provide their vital services at this time.

For Physios particularly, this is a real change of pace. Seeing their patients in person and being able to visibly spot issues or perform basic treatments during their appointments is the norm.

In their work, there is a very rare condition, which is the only true MSK Physio health emergency, which is called Cauda Equina Syndrome. This condition can result in the permanent loss of bowel and bladder control, as well as permanent leg weakness, and treatment is usually same day spinal surgery, so it’s extremely important that the signs are spotted early on.

Despite this being an uncommon condition, our staff are always watchful of this and have the small possibility in the back of their minds when speaking with patients who present specific symptoms.  Although our appointments are now being done in a different way, the team work diligently to ensure they get the information they require over the phone, allowing them to adequately understand the patient needs at hand. 

A few weeks ago, Miles carried out an initial assessment with a patient over the phone. He listened carefully to their narrative, prompting them where necessary to allow him to delve deeper into the issue with careful questioning and simple self-tests.

Miles goes on to explain how the symptoms appeared to match up with those of Cauda Equina Syndrome, and that he was immediately alert to the problem. After explaining this to the patient, he encouraged them to self-present at A&E, and that it was important they should do so as soon as possible, even in the current climate.

Our team informed A&E ahead of the patient arriving, and emailed the patient a letter to take with them, to explain the presentation and be explicit in his concerns. He felt confident that this would ensure prompt action.

The patient was diagnosed with Cauda Equina Syndrome, and went into theatre for spinal surgery the very same day.

In the 10 years that Miles has practiced Physiotherapy, he has sent 3 people to A&E with suspicions of this condition, all of which he had seen face-to-face. In all three cases, the condition was ruled out.

“Always pay attention to what your patient is telling you, and even if the probabilities are slim, listen to your gut. You might be wrong 99% of the time, but there’s always a chance that you were right. Never dismiss that chance.”

The patient in question has since been in touch with our Physio team to extend their gratitude. They are at home, recovering well and have seen an improvement in symptoms within a few days of their operation. They have avoided a life-long condition which could’ve potentially changed their quality of life.

This case reaffirms to us all just how important the utilisation of technology has been throughout the COVID-19 crisis. It also reminds us of the significance of our NHS staff, the hard work they carry out every day and the impact their work can have on a patient’s life. 

Well done to Miles and his team for their brilliant work. We would also like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all NHS staff, who improve and save lives every day.  Thank you.