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Into the next phase…

With COVID-19 case numbers beginning to reduce and urgent care health responders starting their journey into the next phase, Dr Jim Heptinstall, Medical Director of Totally plc's Urgent Care Division, looks back at the last two months and considers how we now move forward into a new ‘business as usual'.

Dr Jim Heptinstall

As we move from our initial response to the pandemic into the next phase, I want to thank all staff working across the division in Vocare and Greenbrook for how well they all have risen to meet the extraordinary challenges of COVID-19.

It's important we take a moment to pause and reflect on what we have achieved together over the past few months. If you had asked me in January what I thought 2020 would bring for urgent care, I could never have imagined how much we would accomplish in such a short space of time.

It would be impossible to list all the achievements across the division which have contributed to the world-wide response to COVID-19, so here is a snapshot:

  • Delivering exceptional care for thousands of additional patients using our services.
  • Safely recruiting hundreds of additional staff and volunteers to support the crisis relief effort.
  • Designing and mobilising multiple new services on behalf of our NHS commissioners.
  • Proving our major incident framework and gold, silver and bronze command structures work successfully.
  • Launching multiple infection prevention and control initiatives, as well as sourcing and distributing thousands of items of PPE.
  • Establishing a video consulting platform as an alternative to telephone to enhance remote clinical assessments.
  • Supporting NHS England to redeploy shielding senior paediatricians into our 111 services.
  • Redirecting clinicians from all over the country to focus on very busy services and support the safe management of our clinical queues.

Looking across the country, I honestly cannot see another urgent healthcare provider who has provided better or safer patient care than we have during this crisis. Well done, everybody! And it's not just us who think so, our commissioners and NHS England have fed this back in recognition of the hard work everyone has put in.

So, now as we enter phase two of our response, we are undertaking a formal evaluation of all the projects and initiatives so that we can assess what has worked and what hasn't. This will help us learn and inform future service developments, especially should we be faced with a second wave of virus infections.

One thing I already know for sure is that the COVID-19 has significantly changed the way we all deliver healthcare services moving forward. Delivering remote healthcare over a video call will become the primary way we can ensure patients are clinically assessed and managed in their home environment without the need to travel. We also believe this will help to make sure that patients are seen in the right place and the right time for their needs, while also keeping staff protected from the risks associated with COVID-19.


Additionally, the way our local clinicians have supported patients outside their normal service by performing out of area remote clinical assessments have been fantastic.

There are no other urgent care providers with the same breadth of expertise and specialist urgent care workforce as us, which gives us a unique opportunity to develop innovative patient pathways, deliver exceptional patient experience and transform local healthcare systems.

This is undoubtedly an exciting time for the Totally Urgent Care Division, and I am proud to be part of the emerging executive team.