Connecting care homes

A number of partners worked to reduce social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns within care homes – including NHS Western Isles, NHS Dumfries and Galloway and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT).

The mPower team at SHSCT worked hard to provide most of the Care Homes within the Trust’s region with a pre-loaded digital device allowing residents to stay connected to family, to clinicians and to the outdoors.

Aidan McCabe, mPower Implementation Lead recognised right at the outset of the pandemic, as Care Homes sought to protect residents, that they would very likely face increased isolation and loneliness. Straight away, he and the team got to work in figuring out how mPower could assist.

Aidan worked with Care Home Managers and the Southern Trust to purchase 10 devices and get them SIM enabled with pre-purchased Wi-Fi connectivity so they could be used anywhere in the Home and residents could have private calls with their family, friends and health care professionals.

The devices were cleared of all unnecessary features which might be complicated to someone using them for the first time and pre-loaded with content and features that would be of interest and of benefit to Care Home residents, including music resources, social apps for video calling, content to support emotional and physical wellbeing as well as linking to the outside world and nature resources including live RSPB feeds and similar outdoor spaces.  Because Church services have also been restricted this year, the devices included religious content such as Scriptures as well as general library services where residents could download a whole range of books and magazines. Some residents have even been able to attend funerals virtually where this was made an option as part of the Service.  

The project was literally an overnight success! Many of the Care Homes told us that after we had delivered the devices, the very next day they were being used and they didn’t go off until they needed to be charged! At least 50% of the Care Home residents have been regularly using the devices, mostly for connecting with friends and family.

The mPower team in NHS Western Isles successfully rolled out NHS Near Me to all 10 of the Islands’ Care Homes. Working closely with the local Council, the team were able to arrange the delivery of tablet devices and provide support to Care Home Managers to get the platform set up. NHS Near Me is a safe and secure video calling platform so that GPs can have a safe consultation with their patients and residents can see their families, which is especially critical for wellbeing at this time.

Sue Long, mPower Implementation Lead said “We’ve been told that after being shown how to use the tablet, one resident was so excited about seeing his family over a video call that he barely slept the night before”. 

Now that local events and social groups are no longer happening, the team have turned to digital alternatives. The ‘daily ceilidh’ for residents in Bernera and Uig is a great example of this. It’s an online coffee morning that takes place every day where people can come together and chat to others.