Latest Activity - VC Links for Speech Therapy Services

Latest Activity

Sweden | Scotland | Ireland | Northern Ireland

Sweden

Operating out of the Norrland's University Hospital in Umeå, VC is being promoted in the speech and language therapy (SLT) department, with systems being successfully deployed in patients' homes. This allows treatment to follow evidence-based best practice in the form of intense 4-times weekly sessions, which have been shown to improve outcomes – but can be difficult for patients to attend in person at the hospital.

SLT is also connecting with the ear, nose and throat (ENT) department to help head and neck cancer patients with rehabilitation following treatment. Together a SLT and ENT nurse will provide support and care to patients in this new VC service.

10 speech therapists are now involved in this project in. This increase in staff will greatly reduce the burden on current staff.

4 portable VC units have now been ordered and the first patients have been recruited.

Scotland

The North Highland Community Health Partnership (NHCHP) subdivision of NHS Highland has used VC technology to deliver speech and language therapy (SLT) for 2 years. Extending across the Caithness and Sutherland, this is a large geographical area with very few urban settlements. There are 2 SLT bases in the area, both located on the more populated East coast, and these can now be linked by VC. These bases can also link with other SLT services across the Highland region and, more recently (since January 2012), with 4 small health centres in the remote north and west. The VC also provides access to services outwith the area at secialist centres in London and Aberdeen.

Staff development and training has been enhanced by the development of a teletherapy manual: 'Connect: An introduction to clinical video consultations'. Although there is only one dedicated SLT VC facility, therapists can access other available units when required.

The current aim is to maximise the use of existing VC units and help promote the clinical use of VC by other disciplines in order to develop an economically viable multi-professional clinical network of VC facilities. ITTS Scotland have widened the clinical use of the VC equipment to other specialities including stroke, pain management, head and neck, paediatrics, Parkinson's and dysphagia.

The project has experienced delays due to the reorganisation of SLT services in Highland: Adult services have been transferred to NHS Highland whereas children's services are now administered by the Highland Council. The disruption of this service redesign resulted in a dip in telemedicine activity, but after a period of adjustment, the service is now gathering pace.

Ireland

The Irish service is administered from the NUIG Speech & Language School with a focus on connecting remote and island community care centres. Currently VC equipment connects the mainland with a remote site on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland and a video-consultation service is now up and running (since August 2013) for paediatric speech and language therapy (SLT).

Early feedback suggests the service is of great benefit to both the speech therapists and patients. Travel to the islands is often restricted by the weather, especially in Winter, but the new VC service avoids the risk of appointments being cancelled at short notice. An added benefit is that parents are now more involved in their children's therapy, sitting in on the sessions at the remote end. In the past, SLT clinics were just conducted between the speech therapist and the child; early signs suggest that parental engagement reflects postively on the child's progress.

A further VC unit is to be installed at a nursing home in Clifden and will link to the Health and Social Care network. The Health Service Executive are pushing for an increase in internet services in the area and are working on the improvement of Broadband internet connections. ITTS Ireland will continue to explore other uses for the equipment, expanding to other services within paediatrics and other specialties including diabetes and dietetics.

The Aran Islands are situated off the
West Coast of Ireland, reached by
a 40-minute ferry ride

Aras Ronain Community Nursing Centre,
Inis Mór, Aran Islands

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, ITTS are focusing on the rehabilitation of stroke patients using VC technology both at home and in local health centres. The new VC service will be used to deliver speech and language therapy in the Newry and Mourne area of Northern Ireland.

In November 2012, a group of speech and language therapists from Northern Ireland travelled to Scotland in a knowledge exchange exercise. In December 2012, a speech therapist from ITTS Sweden also visited the team in Northern Ireland to provide further training and guidance.