There are 21 cochlear implant centres in the UK providing lifelong care to 20,000 patients. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, services have had to change rapidly and evolve iteratively, as lockdown and the subsequent months have significantly reduced face to face outpatient appointments and surgeries. The whole pathway of cochlear implantation has been affected: from newborn hearing screening, referral to a cochlear implant centre, assessment, surgery and subsequent follow-up. There has been a seismic shift in service delivery in some centres: within a few weeks, they were offering remote cochlear implant adjustment, rehabilitation, support, equipment upgrade and repair … almost all the services that were offered face to face. In some places, previous barriers to remote care were overcome quickly (for example Trust information governance), and lengthy layers of decision-making processes were cut down, so clinics could adapt and change in an agile manner. Clinicians were learning from each other and colleagues globally at a faster rate than ever before. While we were all ‘donning and doffing’ PPE, the other PPE became even more important: Professionalism, Partnership, Execution.
Now that outpatient appointments can happen to some extent, clinics are dealing with vastly reduced patient capacity due to social distancing, new cleaning protocols, PPE, surgical changes to reduce aerosol, staff shielding, long waiting lists, patients reluctant to attend or no-showing. There are also large differences between clinics in their uptake and engagement with remote care – offering a very different service model to patients, depending where they live.
These changes happened by necessity, but which should sustain? What are the impact of the changes on patients, staff, services, access to cochlear implantation, age at implantation, and referral numbers?
Join Prof. Helen Cullington, Professorial Fellow and Principal Clinical Scientist at the University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service and Chair of BCIG as she discusses the impact of Covid-19 on CI services and whether there will be lasting changes.
Wednesday 9th September at 9am.