Blesma Briefing: The Pandemic and Prosthetics
This is a timely opportunity to reflect on how things have been since lockdown and look ahead to how things might work in the months to come in respect of prosthetic services.
It quickly became apparent that, because of the coronavirus pandemic, there would be a prolonged period of unprecedented change, whilst access to a lot of NHS services would be severely reduced and, in some cases, cease to operate at all.
NHS limb services across the UK were told by health authorities to stop routine appointments, not see any new patients, and only see emergency or urgent cases if there was no alternative. This led to a large number of patients receiving advice from a prosthetist over the telephone, on a video call, or via email. If this did not solve a particular issue, and the patient was either a key worker or failure to intervene could result in a hospital stay, then stringent safety procedures were adopted to meet that patient’s need.
Patients who have needed to visit a Limb Centre for prosthetic issues will most likely have been asked to notify the Centre when they arrived, and remain in their vehicle. A member of the clinic will have discussed options with the patient and, if necessary and viable, the prosthetic would have been taken into the Centre for work to be carried out. This meant the patient would not enter the building – a necessary safety measure. Prosthetics services require close contact, which is why only emergencies have been dealt with. If a patient did need to enter the Centre, then face masks, PPE and social distancing (where possible) were in force.
When restrictions are eased, all Limb Centres will have to carefully consider how they return to as normal a service as possible. They will need to prioritise those most in need clinically, and it may be some time before planned routine appointments are available. I remain in regular contact with the NHS Limb Service and, with fellow BSOs, will assist our Members as required.
So, what have we learned so far from this terrible and unique situation? The NHS has learned several lessons out of necessity, such as telephone triage to assess an amputee patient’s needs. Where necessary and safe, advice has been given over the phone and items sent out directly to the patient to negate a visit to a Centre. This has worked for some, but not all.
I also believe that amputees have shown incredible patience and resilience, and have been overwhelmingly supportive of these temporary restrictions on services. In the coming months, the NHS limb services will begin the hard work of returning to a new normal. Continued patience and resilience will be needed. Blesma is here to assist as required, so do get in touch if you experience difficulties regarding prosthetics.
I would like to thank the NHS workers who have supported us all through this crisis. I would also like to thank all our Members who have taken this in their stride and shown the spirit of resolve that the military and veteran community is known for. Please stay well, stay safe, and stay in touch.