One of the big challenges we’ve had to deal with as the Covid restrictions continue, is to maintain contact with our Health Care Professionals at the Northern General Hospital. Necessarily, clinic appointments have been scaled back considerably and even telephone consultations have been much less frequent than normal. We know just how busy the Doctors and Nurses are and the pressures that new working practices have created for them but there was certainly something being lost through our inability to see our medical team on a regular basis.
With this in mind, we opened a dialogue with the Specialist Nurses at the clinic and through those discussions the notion of hosting a BBC Question Time style event with a panel of medical experts was conceived. Our panel consisted of two ILD Consultants, Dr Stephen Bianchi and Dr Chris Barber and three Specialist Nurses, Dawn Weston, Sue Miller and Billie Jean Walsh.
We agreed that we wouldn’t be able to handle personal case questions (they would have to be referred back to the clinic independently) but there were many, more general questions which could be tackled using the Zoom meeting platform.
We introduced this concept to the members and asked them to submit their questions to me approximately 7 days before the scheduled event on the 12th October. The returning questions fell neatly into the following categories: Current Outpatient Clinic procedures, Covid 19 impacts, Research, Treatments and Medication and Transplantation, all of which were presented to our panel in advance.
On the morning of 12th October, the panel and our members dialled into Zoom and by the commencement of the meeting we had 20 screens open and approximately 30 people (patients, carers and health care professionals) participating in the event. As host, and for the benefit of all members, I presented the questions to the panel who then answered each in turn before moving on to the next. The whole exercise took just over an hour to complete.
The feedback from the members and our panel of experts was instantaneous and unanimously favourable; emails and WhatsApp notes arrived thick and fast. The panel said that the event had given them the opportunity to get some key messages across to a wide a wide audience of patients and carers whilst the members expressed their opinion that the event had been enjoyable and worthwhile and that they were pleased that their questions and concerns had been addressed by the very people they would have seen, face to face, under normal circumstances.
As a Support Group, we have yet to decided how we can build on the Question Time concept and we will be reflecting upon this over the coming weeks. In my opinion, as long as patients and carers have questions and our Health Care Professionals have the time and capacity to spend with us, then this is a very simple and effective way of keeping connected and above all else providing reassurance in these uncertain times.
(Vice Chair, Sheffield Pulmonary Fibrosis Support Group)