Livewell Southwest is supporting patients and service users during COVID-19 by offering virtual consultations and appointments through a smartphone app.
In a UK first, emergency first responders including the police can also use the app to access on-the-spot clinical support for people in mental health crisis when attending a 999 call in and around Plymouth.
Using the Livewell Connect app, police officers called to an emergency where they believe someone is in mental health crisis can immediately contact the Livewell first response team – a group of trained mental health professionals who can offer direct video support to both police officers and people needing mental health support – helping to reduce unnecessary hospital A&E attendances and easing pressure on the NHS during the COVID-19 crisis.
Patients with a range of other conditions, including depression or anxiety, who have been referred for therapy are also being offered the chance to book, access a range of digital clinics and have their appointments via the free Livewell Connect platform, which has been developed and is hosted by Swedish digital health technology provider Visiba Care.
The scheme, rolled out during the COVID-19 lockdown, provides online video appointments through an app, which can be downloaded on smartphones or tablets, and helps people to get the support they need.
Dr Kate Lovett, Consultant Psychiatrist at Livewell Southwest and Dean of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and a is a fan.
She said: “COVID-19 has given us the opportunity to think very differently about how we do things. I am really enjoying using our Livewell Connect app to see patients virtually. I have had excellent feedback from patients who have appreciated its ease of use. I have also found it straightforward to use.
“I will take a lot of convincing to go back to running old fashioned, traditional outpatient appointments. In my view, the new digital platform is likely to revolutionize our services in the future.”
Livewell Southwest, an integrated health and social care provider of NHS services and adult social care in Plymouth, and community health services in South Hams and West Devon, is also offering patients access to a range of other digital clinics and online consultations during lockdown.
Patients registered with the service can now access online services including psychiatric consultations and counselling, adult social care, physiotherapy, community nursing and dentistry.
Plans are also in place to roll out weight management, prosthetics and podiatry treatment to patients in online consultations via the app as the technology is rolled out across the organisation over the next 12 months.
Livewell Southwest Head of Integrated care Ian Lightley said: “We are really excited by the way in which Livewell Connect is helping to transform our response to people experiencing any form of mental or physical health crisis, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
“Livewell Connect has enabled us to bring our clinical expertise directly to those people who need it, at the time they need it. Crucially, it has also helped to avoid unnecessary onward referrals and hospital attendances.
“Since lockdown we have seen a near 600 per cent increase in the number of registered users and over the same period 600 additional staff have had online training to use the system.”
Chief Inspector Rob Mooney of Devon and Cornwall Police said that the new digital platform was a “valuable tool” for police officers helping those in crisis.
“It is vital that police officers on the front line dealing with those in need at the time of crisis have as much information and guidance as possible to give the best outcome, this app will be a valuable tool to assist officers in delivering the best possible service,” he said.
Visiba Care UK manager Tina Marshall said: “We’re delighted to be working with Livewell Southwest to provide a digitally integrated care service for patients. It means more people can get access to the health and care services they need in the region, something which is more important than ever before.
“We work hard to make sure the technology we design is as easy to use for patients and health and care staff as other digital services they use in everyday life – it’s important that they feel reassured that the quality of the support they get remotely is as high as if they were seeing a clinician in a clinic.”
Patients in the southwest are the first in the country to benefit from an integrated health and social care digital service.