Guest Blog Post from Mandy, Social Prescribing Link Worker in Leeds
One of my patients reported feeling isolated and lonely in the first Covid lockdown which was having an impact on his mental health. He was shielding due to physical health difficulties and could no longer connect to the groups that he used to see face to face as he had no IT equipment and was not confident about his digital skills. His goal was to be able to use Zoom and be able to access video sessions to connect with people.
I contacted 100% Digital Leeds and we received digital champion training, it was incredibly useful and we were given information about the different services across the city that can offer digital support, where we can source IT equipment and how to support patients to overcome barriers to digital inclusion. We borrowed an iPad from 100% Digital Leeds Tablet Lending Scheme and added apps to the tablet recommended by 100% Digital Leeds which linked to the patient’s interests and hobbies and what he wanted to use.
At the same time, I referred him to AbilityNet who have supported him to set up and use the iPad in the way that he wanted. I also supported him with Learn My Way which I had found out about through 100% Digital Leeds, which has a section to support with setting up the NHS app for self-management and accessing GP services digitally.
The patient has shared how fantastic and life changing this has been and he has been able to use Zoom to have his weekly counselling sessions, and is intending to use this to connect with previous groups he attended in the community so he does not feel as isolated. He said he feels more connected and is happier, as well as improving his digital skills as well.
“I feel less isolated and the iPad has been brilliant to link me to contacts and groups, I feel that I can connect with people now, manage my mental health accessing the courses and have my GP appointments on video”
I continue to motivate my patients to take their first steps online and see the benefits in digital, telling them about what support is available for them, this is really important for people to avoid isolation and loneliness and to improve confidence and self-esteem. This is especially pertinent as most services only have online and video available at the moment so I am really focusing on supporting people to access digital and identifying the reasons why they may not be able to engage and work to overcome these.
I also have contacted Digital Access West Yorkshire which is another organisation 100% Digital Leeds signposted me to and they have supplied a reconditioned iPad to another patient who is shielding , this system worked well as I collected the iPad from the Hyde Park Book Club safely and delivered it to the patient safely.
There are challenges as some organisations who provide digital support cannot do home visits within the current lockdown restrictions and have to provide help via phone calls and video. I have always asked on my assessments with patients about their level of ability to use digital equipment, if they had equipment and if they wanted to develop their skills. I now have more in depth conversations about this and have wider awareness of the barriers and where to link people to receive support or devices.
I am also going to start having conversations with anyone that I work with who has COPD to see if they are interested in using the myCOPD app which as a result of the Digital Champion Training I know is now available across Leeds which is great!
I am increasing my knowledge of what’s available and with the support of 100% Digital Leeds and the training I can fully ensure patients receive the right support and are also aware of the fantastic opportunities available to them.
Thank you 100% Digital Leeds, it’s making a difference to so many patients across our Social Prescribing Service!