Swansea patients whose appointments have had to be cancelled because of coronavirus are getting expert support over the phone instead so they can continue their treatment.
Psychologists from Swansea University are collaborating with staff from the Women’s Health Physiotherapy and Urogynaecology departments at Singleton Hospital to use tele-medicine as they deal with women receiving treatment for pelvic floor problems.
The psychologists from the College of Human and Health Sciences are providing the vital psychological element in the patients’ ongoing care, alleviating the potential harmful effects of social isolation.
Pelvic floor dysfunction affects about 25 per cent of all women and can be accompanied by a range of psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression, as well as chronic pain, that can be very severe and debilitating if not supported.
Psychological issues can make the physical conditions last longer, with more intense and severe symptoms. These complex psychological needs could be addressed when patients attended hospital for appointments, but many women are now without that avenue of help.
Professor Phil Reed and Dr Lisa Osborne have been collaborating to develop treatments for women’s health problems for many years. They are currently working with Swansea Bay University Health Board to provide psychological tele-support during the outbreak.
They say using the University as a base to deliver this support is relieving pressure on the hospital at a critical time, allowing staff a safe working environment and is also an excellent example of joint working between the College and the NHS.
Dr Osborne said: “These ladies are working so hard to overcome their physical problems, and sometimes they need support to do this. Working with them over the phone is a lifeline for some – especially as coronavirus is adding a further source of anxiety for these ladies, as for us all.”
Research by the joint Swansea University and Singleton Hospital multidisciplinary team previously has identified a clear link between psychological support for patients with pelvic floor dysfunction and better clinical outcomes. This makes the patient experience better, and the NHS more efficient; thus, easing even more pressure on resources.
Professor Reed said: “Keeping the service going in an efficient way is really important. Many of these patients will feel isolated and frustrated, which could make their physical conditions worse without this ongoing support.”
Mental health issues can arise from social isolation, but this counselling goes beyond offering social support.
Professor Reed explained that there is a real need to deliver psychological care, and the Department, College and University, with the support of the security staff, are providing the facilities and technology to ensure that support continues during this challenging time.