COVID-19 means we’re all having to deal with more change and uncertainty than we’re used to. There are positives too as we evaluate how (and where) we do things and embrace a more flexible approach to life.
Here’s an update on some of the changes we’ve been making here at Ace Centre to continue to provide a safe and sustainable service to clients, many of whom are especially vulnerable to COVID-19.
- Although we were unable to offer routine appointments, we continued to provide a service for priority clients – for example, those with a progressive or degenerative illness or anyone experiencing a change of environment.
- Where possible appointments are held remotely finding out as much as we can in initial contacts so we can ‘feature match’ client needs with equipment options before they try it.
Case study: we organised a video call for a client with aphasia and his therapist. We ordered an IPad in advance so that we could screen-share with him during the meeting, aiding discussion of his vocabulary preferences in view of the equipment options available.
After the meeting, we ordered the equipment, and once the client had received it we arranged a further remote session to show him how to use it. The client’s speech therapist said: ‘He loves it and was so thankful for everything you’ve done at Ace‘
- Many of our clients have complex physical and language requirements which can be hard to assess remotely even on a video call. So face-to-face appointments were conducted were absolutely necessary in strict adherence with COVID-19 guidelines.
- Client-facing staffs have been wearing PPE in line with government guidelines but additionally, they’ve had to change their working procedures – for example travelling separately and undertaking extensive planning and preparation in advance of face-to-face appointments.
Case study: following an initial remote assessment, we felt it was necessary to see a client with motor neurone disease at her home to try the AAC equipment options that could work with her level of physical ability.
We considered every aspect of the visit in fine detail to make sure that we only had to do it once and that it was completed as safely and quickly as possible. In practical terms this meant two people were required and that every piece of equipment we might need had to be taken into the house at the beginning of the visit – this would avoid visits to and from the car and accompanying changes of PPE. Once in the house, one person prepared the equipment (at the far end of the room) ready to pass it to the other as soon as they needed it.
The client opted for Headmouse but has since asked to try rollerball technology too. She recently emailed to say ‘Thank you so much for your support and help’.
- We’ve developed extensive guidance and procedures around the decontamination of equipment, most of which has to wait 72 hours from when it’s sanitised before it can be used again.
‘During what is a stressful and challenging time, I am extremely proud of the support and hard-work the Ace Centre team has provided to our clients and to each other. Their hard work, creativity and flexibility give me confidence that we can and will meet whatever challenges are still to come.’
Beyond Ace Centre
- We’ve made our expertise and resources available to other healthcare providers and government departments for example:
- The offer of paper-based laminated boards to Manchester’s Nightingale Hospital to help aid communication with patients who are unable to speak – for example, those being ventilated.
- We collated a range of online resources in conjunction with the Department of Education to help support children with specialist needs whose only means of accessing learning during lockdown is online.
- We have contributed content and signposted to online resources like those found at https://assistivetechnology.org.uk/
The new normal
We’re still adopting a ‘remote-first’ strategy here at Ace Centre but since mid-July, we’ve started to work through our backlog of routine referrals and are inviting clients to our premises where it’s appropriate and safe to do so. A lot of thought, preparation and practice has gone into making our office as safe as possible with lots of dry runs to make sure we know what’s needed at each stage of a visit.
We’re currently working in two bubbles, with half of the team working Monday and Tuesday and the other half Thursday and Friday.
It’s difficult to predict what might happen next as a result of the pandemic but Ace Centre is committed to supporting our clients in any way we can, prioritising safety every step of the way.