COVID-19 and adult congenital heart disease services: impact on support and advice from nurse specialists
Although the focus on service provision in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has mainly been on acute and particularly intensive care, it is important to consider other services that are still needed. This is especially the case for vulnerable patients with long-term conditions, such as those under the care of an adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) service. The authors conducted a survey of ACHD nurse specialists in centres across the UK to acertain what they were planning in terms of the redeployment of nurse specialists. The results showed a range of plans with an average of half of nurses per centre being moved, but with 65% of the workforce planned to be redeployed to deal with the pandemic. The telephone advice service at the authors' own level 1 centre showed a significant increase in patients seeking advice when compared with the previous year, with large peaks following major Government announcements. Access to specialist advice for patients with complex conditions is of vital interest, for those in a wide range of specialities.
Having easy access to advice and support of clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) is a key part of the NHS England standards for adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) patients (NHS England, 2016). This is of prime importance to patients, their families and carers (Sillman et al, 2017). It is imperative to consider the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on this aspect of the service. This article reviews the impact of the pandemic on nurse-led telephone advice service in the authors' level 1 ACHD surgical centre, especially when the nursing workforce is redeployed to other roles due to the pandemic.
A questionnaire was sent to ACHD CNSs across the UK, via email, at the end of March 2020. It asked how many nurses were planned to be retained in their service and how many were planned to be redeployed. Responses were received from all 11 level 1 UK specialist ACHD surgical centres, as well as three level 2 specialist ACHD centres. The authors reviewed the calls logged by their own Trust's CNS-led advice service for the month of March 2020 and compared with those from the same period in 2019. This work was registered as an audit by the Trust clinical governance team.
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