CEO Series: David Probert, CEO, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS FT.

The latest in our Interview Series we speak with David Probert, CEO of Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS FT.

We talk about the role of technology during the pandemic, innovations to their service, maintaining staff wellbeing and morale, and plans for a recovery phase.

What did Moorfields learn during Covid-19?

Some people may think that an eye hospital may not have seen much changed in a pandemic, especially when compared to a general acute hospital; however, a great deal has changed at Moorfields since the covid-19 pandemic began.

There are the changes you would expect in any public setting to ensure strict social distancing, but as we get used to our new one-way system, temperature checks and how to stop our glasses fogging up while wearing a face mask, we have made some real transformative changes which will improve the way we deliver eye care far beyond the pandemic.

How has Moorfields innovated its service?

Moorfields has been working on telemedicine solutions to support care for a while now, but when lockdown hit the UK, we had to accelerate our plans to deliver a large amount of remote care very quickly and very effectively.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, we have held over 10,000 online video appointments to support patients living with a range of eye conditions, those requiring a follow-up review after surgery, as well as running an innovative virtual accident and emergency (A&E) service providing urgent care to those with most immediate needs. We were able to roll this out just two days after increased lockdown measures were announced, and we now host over 600 video appointments a week.

The video consultations run on an easy to use platform which has a virtual waiting room where a ‘virtual receptionist’ can effectively prioritise patients and signpost them to the correct service.

Almost eight in ten A&E patients have been able to get the treatment they need without travelling into hospital, with almost 95% of patients giving the service they received a maximum rating of five stars. This success has highlighted the potential role telemedicine could play in the care we provide going forward, which is not only more cost effective but incredibly convenient for all.

Further opportunities to innovate came when looking at ways to monitor subtle changes in our patients’ sight from home. We’ve expanded our use of apps giving short daily tests. Scores from the apps go straight to Moorfields and an appointment is booked when the scores show the need for one. The pandemic has been a good test for the effectiveness of these apps and our patients and clinicians are impressed with how practical they are.

How has Moorfields managed to keep patients safe? 

The safety of our staff and patients has been our highest priority throughout this terribly difficult time and our infection control team has been very busy indeed. Alongside the more common socially distanced waiting rooms, face masks and reduced capacities, like many hospitals we have had to create separate routes around the hospital for patients who have symptoms and those who don’t. We have had to make big structural changes to make this possible, including tearing down entire walls.

It has also been important to consider the needs of patients that haven’t been able to come for an appointment, such as those who are shielding.  Our clinicians have been utilising the power of social media more than ever before to deliver at-home eye care advice and important updates for patients, so they feel cared for from a distance.

How have you encouraged patients to come in for appointments?

Having never faced anything quite like covid-19 before, we had no way of knowing how anxious patients would feel coming in to Moorfields, even when restrictions were beginning to lift.

We have worked very hard, partnering with organisations such as the Macular Society and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to highlight the importance of attendance and to reassure patients that it is safe to come in.

We’ve put out animations and patient-generated videos on our safety procedures and advised our patients on their transport options, but we have learnt there is no substitute to hearing the reassuring voice of a clinician on the phone.

How have you managed to maintain staff wellbeing and morale?

Making sure our staff are feeling well, supported, safe and happy has been crucial to providing the best service possible in these unusual times. We’ve always provided a counselling service to our staff 24 hours a day, but the addition of a dedicated wellbeing space on site, alongside regular staff updates has helped to give our staff the strength needed to think innovatively and creatively in challenging circumstances.

What does the ongoing recovery at Moorfields look like?

We still have a waiting list of appointments and procedures, and we can’t see social distancing leaving us any time soon, but we are finding our feet and learning to thrive in our ‘new normal’.

We are working harder than ever in completely new pathways, with new technology, to ensure that we catch-up as quickly as possible. I have been incredibly proud of how Moorfields has innovated in challenging circumstances and it is clear the nothing can stop us from delivering the best eye care in the world.