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Looking back at the success of 'Team GP vs Covid'

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Back in March, when the UK was hit by the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the NHS saw an unprecedented demand for services. Primary care services were placed, quite suddenly, under tremendous pressure, as critical care services, A&E and ICU tried in vain to keep up with massive demand without collapsing. 

Shortages in PPE only exacerbated the situation, with many doctors, nurses and clinical staff themselves contracting the virus, leading to further shortages in critical care staff.

In order to help the NHS with its staffing crisis, the team at Credentially worked in collaboration with GP Dr Simon Hodes to recruit clinical staff and relieve some of the pressure placed on NHS services by the pandemic. ‘Team GP vs Covid’ was born.

With the help of Credentially’s automated recruitment and onboarding platform, Dr Simon Hodes formed a group of volunteer GPs - all of whom were willing to give their time and experience for free - to support the national fight against Covid-19. Both practising and retired GPs were recruited, capitalising on what may otherwise have remained an untapped resource of professional support. Volunteers also included part-time GPs with spare time available to support the project and GPs who were unable to work because they were shielding vulnerable family members at home. In short, ‘Team GP vs Covid’ left no stone unturned in its quest to find additional man-power to support NHS staff during the crisis.

Quickly and efficiently

Dr Kit Latham, Credentially CEO and former A&E doctor, approached Dr Hodes after seeing his appeal for volunteer GPs on Twitter. Until that point, Dr Hodes had been using WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook to contact and recruit GPs - mostly through professional contacts - with moderate success. Kit knew that Credentially’s software - which automates sign-up, verification and onboarding of healthcare staff - could be a massive help to the ‘Team GP vs Covid’ project, and would enable the team to scale the process quickly and efficiently. Once Credentially offered their support to the project, a professional platform was launched - the Covid Clinical Assessment Service (CCAS) - helped by a dedicated social media campaign. Within a week, the number of GPs volunteering to help rocketed. 

Credentially’s software platform was designed with the specific aim of reducing the time, paperwork and stress that healthcare recruitment generates for clinical staff. It’s also closely integrated and interoperable with healthcare’s most important credentialing databases and key compliance systems, making it an extremely valuable resource for NHS recruiters. Having worked as an A&E doctor, Kit had seen first-hand the need to reduce bureaucracy and streamline the recruitment process in order to free up clinicians to carry out more important duties, an outcome which could only be achieved with the help of technology. The Credentially team share a passion for healthcare innovation and improving efficiency through automation, and the Covid-19 pandemic presented an opportunity to apply these principles to a real-time crisis.

Thousands of GPs

Credentially’s software platform is the only system which enables this process to be carried out remotely, with functionality for automated verification of applications and credentials. This made it the perfect solution: not only could GPs be recruited quickly and efficiently at an extremely pressurised time, but the process could be carried out without the need for face-to-face contact, which crucially avoided placing our much-needed medical staff at unnecessary risk of contracting the virus themselves. The entire project was implemented in an extremely short period of time, with thousands of GPs recruited, credential-checked and ready to take calls within a matter of days.

The volunteer GPs then applied themselves to the task of taking calls from patients and freeing up already overstretched 111 services. The project had extremely far-reaching benefits throughout the health service because when waiting times for NHS 111 are too long, patients often panic and call 999, placing additional pressure on 999 operators and ambulance services at what is already a critical time.

We onboarded over three thousand additional GPs to the Covid Clinical Assessment Service to support with telephone consultations during the pandemic, enabling concerned callers to speak directly with highly experienced medical professionals. In turn, our volunteer GPs were able to use their extensive primary care and risk management expertise to provide invaluable healthcare advice and reassurance, reducing unnecessary referrals to the ambulance service and visits to A&E. In other words, they put their experience to use in one of the most effective ways possible. 

Close collaboration

Fortunately, the Covid Clinical Assessment Service received support from a variety of stakeholders, without whom the project would not have been possible. These included - in addition to the thousands of volunteer GPs - senior NHSE bosses including Dr Nikki Kanani (Head of Primary Care) and Iain Pickles (Lead for NHS Clinical Review of Standards) as well as external partners like consultant Tim Cowland at Radio Experts, who generously gave his time for free. The project also relied heavily on close collaboration between an extensive team of HR professionals - the majority of whom had never met one another - all of which was achieved under the highly pressurised conditions and rapidly changing requirements brought about by the pandemic.

The Team GP vs Covid / CCAS project was successfully launched at a time when the need to augment NHS staff could not have been more pressing. The project succeeded in recruiting thousands of active volunteers to support the health service, despite the limitations presented by the unprecedented circumstances. Without the selfless work of our GP volunteers, the drive and initiative of Dr Simon Hodes and Dr Kit Latham, Credentially’s innovative software platform and extensive collaboration between multiple professionals, this project - and its invaluable contribution to the fight against Covid-19 - would never have been realised.

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