Since the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, 40 per cent of all appointments at Yeovil Hospital have been taking place virtually, with many departments around the Trust fully evolving to seeing patients online.

That amounts to 72,730 virtual appointments attended up until 31 March 2021. Two fantastic examples of this are the Yeovil Hospital gastroenterology department, which now hosts 80 per cent of its appointments virtually and the dietetics department, where the team has been working via virtual appointments since March 2020.

Back in April 2020, staff from a range of specialities where challenged with providing services remotely to considerably reduce the footfall throughout the hospital and enable social distancing for patients who do need to face-to-face appointments. It has been clear the see that, almost a year on, staff have fully embraced contacting patients via video or telephone consultation. This enables departments to continue to see patients face-to-face when necessary but reduces the risk of infection for those patients when coming into the hospital.

Outpatients General Manager, Sophie Sennet said: “Moving to virtual clinics was such a change for our clinicians and patients. Pre pandemic, I am sure our clinical teams would have chosen face-to-face appointments every time, but the pandemic has forced our hand and we have been surprised by what a positive experience we have had. COVID-19 has been a catalyst in transforming appointments to online in a matter of weeks back in Spring 2020 and the feedback from both our patients and our staff has been fantastic.”

Teams at Yeovil have been able to ensure patients continue to receive care in a safe way, and feedback from patients tells us that many are thrilled they did not need to come to the hospital but could still have the attention of their clinician. Many also reported that the appointments were less time-consuming and reduced the time they need to be away from their own responsibilities.

Head of Nutrition and Dietetics Sarah Ashley-Maguire and her team have been providing virtual appointments since last March (2020) and have found the experience benefits both patients and staff. Sarah said: “Running clinics virtually has allowed us to see the patient in the comfort of their own home and gauge if there are any health concerns. It allows for a different level of interactivity which has been particularly useful when discussing portion sizes or food types, as this can done with the patient’s real life examples in their own kitchen, looking at their own plates.”

Multiple staff have also noted positive gains of interacting with patients online. Orthotics Service Manager Juliet Sturgess said: “I was surprised by how much I was actually able to assess and treat the patients by video consultation. My role is very hands on dealing with items worn by patients to improve how they move or recover from injury. Being able to see our patients by video has meant we have been able to continue to supply these items and continue our clinical service, which otherwise might have had to stop.”

There have been challenges and learnings along the way as clinical staff and patients learn how to use new software, but these have been easily overcome and when the internet is not an option, the teams revert to telephone calls. Moving forwards, Yeovil Hospital’s nutrition nurses are looking into using a virtual assessment app, to enable them to support any troubleshooting of feeding tubes within the community and potentially save admissions.

Sarah added: “Overall, it has been a very positive experience for us and I would be looking for this to be a permanent shift in how we deliver our services, rather than one to cope with pandemic pressures.”


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