What was the original proposal?
The project, called Connect Well, aims to support people living with HIV who may be experiencing loneliness and isolation.
The original proposal was that this would be done face to face, in west London clinical and community settings, with one to one and group sessions.
The focus of the sessions is on supporting people to become more confident and able to overcome issues relating to loneliness and isolation. This leads to better mental health, emotional well-being and resilience.
Referrals into the service would come from service users and clinicians, or other healthcare professionals, who can see the need for this support but don’t have the time, resources or skills to provide it.
What changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Living Well could not plan face to face sessions in community or clinical settings because of the COVID-19 lockdown, and effects of social distancing and travel restrictions.
Some HIV appointments were cancelled and HIV clinicians who would have been seeing patients were diverted to acute COVID-19 or other emergency work, were off sick, had to self-isolate, or had to re-prioritise.
People have been fearful of interacting with healthcare services and many are opting to avoid clinical settings.
With lockdown and social isolation, traditional community outreach and partnership building was also impossible.
How has the Connect Well project been adapted?
They have invested in new digital solutions and ramped up capacity for remote support – meaning all services will now be delivered online or by phone.
Living Well and project partners think this could lead to some service and outcome improvements, as it will be possible to support more people across a larger area and offer more flexible access and a variety of tools and strategies across the different range of services.
They have made the following adjustments to the service model:
- Online community and clinical outreach using whatever platforms people are comfortable with, as well as telephone calls.
- New presentation videos.
- Online and telephone assessment and care planning.
- Co-designing a new six session, hour long, one to one support service with pool of counsellors and life coaches.
- Developed a new six session group coaching programme, which gives people a platform to engage with peers and learn new strategies to improve day-to-day experience during times of loneliness and isolation.
- Monthly online educational webinars and workshops delivered by qualified facilitators focused on themes and issues identified by service users and professionals.
- Developing taster videos on topics like resilience and mindfulness to act as a recruitment tool for service users and support referrals from other organisations.
- Creating a ‘Safe Virtual Community Space’ using a private online ‘MeetUp’. This will give people an opportunity to; meet other people online; stay up to date with events; share and discuss ideas in a safe environment; and organise online or offline meetings with other people who share common interests.
- Survey Monkey will be used to help facilitate evaluation.
Some potential challenges with the new model:
- Service user resources and capabilities – phone available if no video
- Service user confidence using technology – people may need some help with unfamiliar technology
- ‘Newness’ of approach – resistance to change and need for hand-holding
- Technical issues – connection speeds for service users and practitioners
- Service users having the physical space and confidentiality during lockdown
- Processes including assessments and evaluations – sorting out logistics of doing this via survey monkey
Some potential opportunities with the new model:
- Online model has the potential to help many more people across all of London
- Opportunities to connect with other organisations and clinics across London
- New model allows for greater flexibility, for example sessions can be recorded so service users can watch them at a more convenient time
- New model will be far easier to upscale if successful
- Loneliness and isolation is a bigger issue now than ever so there is a real need for this support
Find out more about the Connect Well project and make referrals here www.connectwellnow.com.
For more information get in touch with Simon Jones, CEO, Living Well, at firstname.lastname@example.org.