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We want to start a discussion that examines what it really means to ‘take care’

Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Sam Rice, a consultant physician in Llanelli, and Kimberley Littlemore, creative director at eHealth Digital Media Ltd, worked together to develop a series of educational films about diabetes. During the past year, they have begun developing a new set of resources to support staff wellbeing.

Wales has the highest prevalence of diabetes in the UK. Almost 200,000 people now live with diabetes, or 7.4% of the adult population – and the numbers are rising every year. If current trends continue, it is estimated that 311,000 people in Wales will have diabetes by 2030. The disease costs the NHS in Wales approximately £500 million a year, of which 80% is spent on managing complications – most of which could be prevented.

Delivering appropriate advice and support to such large numbers of people with type 2 diabetes is both essential and a considerable challenge. Audit data from 2015 showed that less than 1% of this group had ever attended a validated education course in Wales. We needed a new way to reach out to the many thousands of people who have diabetes and aren’t receiving the support they deserve to manage their disease properly – especially those living in rural, isolated areas, and those who feel socially isolated, and are perhaps economically deprived.

We created a series of digital education films that focused on behavioural change in patients with diabetes. Working with a media company, we put together around 10 films and worked with two GP surgeries to send out text messages with links to videos, which can be accessed on the move. The films are 5–10 minutes long, and links at the end of the films signpost patients towards more information or other learning materials.

The diabetes project was extremely effective and relatively low cost. It was shortlisted for an NHS England and NHS Wales Innovation Award, and in 2019, we won a Quality in Care Diabetes Award. More recently, the team won a 2020 Health Service Journal patient safety award for films made in partnership with the Cambridge Diabetes Education Programme. 

We have since pulled together content for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic pain, lymphoedema, heart failure, social prescribing, end-of-life care, cancer survival, and more recently, dementia, some of which are funded by the Welsh government on an all-Wales basis. The dementia series is being developed in partnership with the University of Wales, and we hope it will be part of the new national dementia training programme.  

As with so many facets of healthcare, the pandemic has accelerated the pace of change. As COVID-19 restricted access to traditional health education courses, people clicked on links to PocketMedic films nearly 90,000 times in 2020. Now we are branching out: over the past year, it has become clear that the need for easy-to-access health information is not confined to our patients. 

The NHS workforce has gone above and beyond during the pandemic. Staff are physically and mentally exhausted, and while most health boards and trusts across the country have collated a huge array of resources to support staff wellbeing, there is often a disconnect between what’s needed, what’s wanted, and what’s available. We’ve worked with Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) and the Bevan Commission, a health and social care think tank, to develop the idea of a desktop widget for health and care professionals.

Our first campaign, Prosiect Ti’n Iawn? (Are You OK?) will use the widget to link people to wellbeing support and information films. We want to start a discussion that examines what it really means to ‘take care’ or ‘look after yourself’. As doctors, we are very good at saying it to other people, but we’re nowhere near as good at looking after ourselves.

For more information on PocketMedic videos, visit their website: www.pocketmedic.org.