Pioneering program empowers stroke survivors during COVID-19 lockdown

A pioneering program to empower people living with complex long-term conditions such as a stroke or multiple trauma manage their own rehabilitation has been kept on the road during the coronavirus pandemic – thanks to an expert from Kingston University and St George’s, University of London taking the service to online.

Pioneering program empowers stroke survivors during COVID-19 lockdown

Kingston University's Professor Fiona Jones took the self-rehabilitation program online so people living with complex long-term conditions still received support during the coronavirus pandemic.

Professor Fiona Jones, founder of the Bridges Self-Management program, and her team worked tirelessly in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown to ensure health and social care staff across the country could adapt their support to patients that were not able to receive rehabilitation in person.

The Bridges Self-Management team reached out to people with disabilities to see how they could cope in isolation, together they created films and podcasts on how to self-manage their rehabilitation.

Due to lockdown, some people went from receiving three or four homecare visits a day to none - that must have been really difficult. We wanted to create something to fill this gap and support NHS staff to continue ensure patients still felt valued and could continue their rehabilitation remotely”

Professor Fiona Jones, Founder of the Bridges Self-Management program

“Our whole focus with Bridges is how we can be person-centered and help people self-manage. We pride ourselves on how we network with people - if you’re going to have one interaction with someone make it meaningful and worthwhile,” the Professor of Rehabilitation Sciences at Kingston and St George’s added. Professor Jones launched Bridges Self-Management in 2013 as a social enterprise and it has since helped the rehabilitation of thousands of patients with diverse and complex long-term conditions through new approaches delivered by health and care practitioners across the UK.

Professor Jones, who was awarded an MBE for her services to stroke rehabilitation in 2018, said it was really important to support staff working in rehabilitation and community services during lockdown. “At the start of the pandemic many NHS staff working in rehabilitation felt a lack of direction and purpose, which can have an impact on your wellbeing. We felt it was important to find new ways to support staff work remotely and ensure personalized care for patients was not lost as everything was about providing acute care for people with Covid,” she said.

Since early April, fortnightly webinars have been delivered to NHS workers by the Bridges team on topics including how to be resilient, how to deliver care remotely and a Covid-19 specific one where there was a talk from a major trauma survivor.

We want those joining us to find it useful so we cover the themes they ask us to. We did one about creating meaningful one-off interactions with patients, which they all found really helpful, we had an Occupational Therapist from Guernsey present a webinar on triage and a Physiotherapist from Cardiff sharing her innovative rapid improvement work”

Professor Fiona Jones

The webinars attract people from as far as Canada, Australia and New Zealand and from across all healthcare professions, including nursing, psychology and therapy. “We feel the webinars are a great, comforting place for a practitioner to be and somebody even fed back saying the sessions felt like a clinical soul restoration,” Professor Jones said.

Dr Deborah Harding and Professor Annette Boaz, who work alongside Professor Jones at Kingston and St George’s, have helped to deliver sessions. Dr Harding co-delivered a session with Arnie Puntis, a community rehabilitation team lead based in Wandsworth while Professor Boaz presented on quality improvement during the pandemic.

Professor Jones felt it was important to support colleagues and NHS staff who might have been struggling emotionally with the constant stream of negative language and connotations about the pandemic being used across social media and said the feedback regarding the sessions has been overwhelmingly positive. “Before the webinars those attending would say they felt exhausted, overworked and frustrated but by the end they told us they were feeling energized and reassured. We just wanted to have an impact on people and for them to feel it added to their lives rather than being a burden so we’re delighted with the response,” she said.

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