New digital tool aims to drive maternity service equality in north east London

People using maternity services in north east London will be encouraged to play a greater role in their care with the rollout of a new digital tool designed to reduce health inequalities.      

CardMedic – an award-winning app and website system which translates common clinical conversations into different languages and formats – will be used to make care more personalised, improve communication with medical staff and boost safety.

As well as providing instant translation support in a number of different languages, CardMedic can be switched to British Sign Language and subtitles to help those who are deaf or have hearing problems, Easy Read for children or people with learning disabilities, and a ‘read aloud’ function for those with visual impairment or literacy issues.

It is also hoped this will enable maternity teams to use translation services in a more efficient way – allowing staff to act more quickly in urgent and emergency situations and overcome communication barriers at times when translators are not available.

The system has been commissioned by North East London Health and Care Partnership, the integrated care system (ICS) which covers Barking and Dagenham, the City of London, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

North east London (NEL) ICS serves a diverse and fast-growing population, with more than 250 languages spoken and 53% of residents identifying as belonging to an ethnic minority, compared to 11% across England. It also has the highest birth rate in the country.

CardMedic will initially be used to encourage uptake in maternity services to address the healthcare inequalities that exist in parts of NEL and support work to improve perinatal pelvic health among those who need extra specialist care during or after pregnancy.

It follows national reports and audits suggesting poor outcomes – particularly for those from Black, Asian and mixed ethnic backgrounds – could have been different with more accessible information, stronger communication and greater cultural awareness.

Alice Compton, Senior Project Manager for Maternity Digital and Data Transformation and a digital midwife at NEL ICS, said:

“After speaking with maternity service users in north east London and understanding their experiences, it was clear that major gaps in service provision existed, with pregnant people and families often feeling they were not being listened to by staff.

“We know improvements need to be made to ensure pregnancy and birthing experiences are equitable, personalised and culturally appropriate for everyone, so by getting it right for those who experience the poorest outcomes, we’ll get it right for everyone.

“Deploying CardMedic will help us address this – giving service users the opportunity to play an active role in their care and reassuring clinicians that they are delivering the same care standards to all their patients, irrespective of their language or background.”

Dr Rachael Grimaldi, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, CardMedic, said:

“Everyone has the right to access healthcare, and communication barriers should never stand in people’s way. We’re proud to be a part of NEL ICS’s journey in reducing health inequalities, improving communication between healthcare staff and families, and making care more accessible for all.”

CardMedic will be available through hospital services in NEL ICS by late summer, including maternity units and maternity clinics run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, Barts Health NHS Trust and Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The feedback gathered from maternity service users in north east London and their families has been used to produce a strategy and action plan which aims to improve equity and equality for pregnant women so services better meet the needs of those who use them. The full report can be read on the NHS North East London website here.

Community groups receive £70,000 to help people with Long Covid in City of London and Hackney

Specialist NHS help is available for people with Long Covid in City and Hackney and across north east London.

Community groups across Hackney and the City of London have been awarded a total of £70,000 to help people living with Long Covid make a full and lasting recovery.

The funding is designed to empower local voluntary sector organisations to raise public awareness about Long Covid and its symptoms, signpost people to the support available to them and promote self-advocacy among the affected communities. One of the key aims is to encourage those who think they have lasting effects from COVID-19 to seek help from their GP and request referral to the specialist NHS post-Covid service. This will ensure they can be fully assessed and receive the necessary rehabilitation support.

A spokesperson for Hoxton Health, one of the seven groups to receive grants worth up to £10,000, said:

“We hope to use this funding to help older members of the community we work closely with be more aware of Long Covid as a condition.

“There are still many residents in City and Hackney who are suffering from the symptoms of Long Covid and are unaware of the support available.

“We hope to play our part in ensuring residents are better informed about the condition and know where to get the support they need.”

Dr Stephanie Coughlin, a local GP and Clinical Director, City & Hackney Place Based Partnership, said:

“If you have symptoms of Long Covid, you may find there is an impact on your day-to-day activities, including the ability to work, which directly affects your quality of life. Therefore, it’s important to get the support you need.

“My advice for anyone who suspects they may have Long Covid would be to go and see your GP so you can be checked out. They will do a range of tests to see if the symptoms can be explained by any other illnesses or conditions.

“If these can be ruled out, you may be referred to our local Long Covid services where you can get the right physical and mental health support.”

City and Hackney Covid Rehabilitation (CoRe) service has undertaken substantial work over the past year to understand the potential unmet need for specialist support among local people living with Long Covid, particularly within under-represented communities.

The service is keen to raise awareness of the condition, the impact of associated symptoms and the ways those affected most can access the support they need.

The funding, awarded to seven local organisations, was secured by the CoRe service and Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s fundraising department from NHS Charities Together to build community partnerships within the voluntary sector focusing on Long Covid.

Long Covid is defined by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence as “signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19 and continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis”.

Symptoms can vary from person to person and may fluctuate over time. They include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle ache
  • Difficulty concentrating/memory loss/confusion
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Headache
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Worry/anxiety
  • Fast heart rate

Specialist NHS help is available for people with Long Covid in Hackney and the City of London. For more information on Long Covid and the support available locally, read or download the leaflet on the Homerton Hospital website.

Hundreds receive health and lifestyle help at free drop-in clinics in Barking

More than 1,300 people in Barking have received help and support to lead happier and healthier lives, thanks to an initiative led by local GPs and their staff.  

Working closely with the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT), NHS North East London, developer Barking Riverside and community group Thames Life, Aurora Medcare GP practice is running series of drop-in outreach clinics to support the drive by local partners to tackle health inequalities. The first four clinics proved hugely successful, with GPs, paramedics, nurses, healthcare assistants, pharmacists, social prescribers, managers and community leaders all offering help and advice, while signposting residents to local organisations for extra support.

People are now being invited to the latest drop-in clinic at Thames Community Hub in Bastable Avenue, Barking, from 12pm to 6pm on Friday 28 July, which is free and open to all. Further monthly events are planned as follows:

  • Friday 11 August (12pm-6pm) – Thames Community Hub, Bastable Avenue
  • Friday 8 September (12pm-6pm) – Rivergate Centre, Minter Road, Barking
  • Friday 13 October (12pm-6pm) – Thames Community Hub, Bastable Avenue

The clinics were launched by GPs following discussions with local partners, including faith and community groups, about the best way to meet growing demand from patients with a range of issues – many of them non-medical or requiring additional support.

At the first four events, partners offered help and advice on issues including foodbanks, mental health support, children’s activities, debt and finances, cookery classes, walking groups and bereavement support. People with medical concerns were directed to Thames View Medical Practice, which is one of two local surgeries run by Aurora Medcare.

Dr Jagan Johna GP at Aurora Medcare and a board member at NHS North East London, said: “We’ve now held four drop-in clinics and it has been fantastic working with our local community and partners to provide help and advice to our residents. 

“A critical part of work to address health inequalities in Barking and Dagenham involves enabling our residents to be self-empowered and taking action to prevent illness, so these clinics have supported our efforts in helping them lead healthier, happier lives. 

“There are many different factors that affect a person’s health and wellbeing so we’ve had the opportunity to encourage people to liaise with local services and community groups, where this might help them manage their individual needs. This in turn allows me and my fellow GPs to focus on those patients who require our help with medical issues.

“The events have taken a great deal of planning and all of our practice staff have given up their time voluntarily, either on their day off or as overtime, which shows how committed our team members are and their willingness to give back to the local community.”

Aurora Medcare says the lessons learned from running the drop-in clinics, and the feedback received, is helping it shape the way it supports its patients and to better understand their needs, as well as boosting team spirit and relations with local partners. The clinics are being expanded as more local stakeholder groups get involved.