John Maclean, Health Board volunteer with one of the ipads.
By Lucy Ashton
It started as a chance corridor conversation and it has ended up as a way to help pass the time for patients, improve their social interaction during their stay – and possibly even reduce the length of time they spend in hospital.
Staff at the Institute of Neurological Sciences (INS) at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) have begun a collaboration with NHSGGC Library Services and Glasgow Life, the charity which delivers culture and sport in the city on behalf of Glasgow City Council, to provide e-library services to patients. And the benefits could be far more widespread than a good book before lights-out.
The idea first emerged when Eilidh Gallagher, NHSGGC’s Interim Clinical Service Manager, Neurology, ran into a consultant during another busy shift.
She witnessed an exchange of a video of wheelchair rugby to a young patient from Dr Harvey Mallory, Consultant in Neurorehabilitation. The patient was new to his chair and wondering what the rest of his life would hold. Dr Mallory had also found a book on the subject but couldn’t pass that on to the patient because of COVID restrictions.
And when Eilidh heard the conversation, one thing came to mind: “There must be something we can do about this.”
So Eilidh went looking for a solution – something that would give patients access to e-books.
The answer was to build on an existing partnership between NHSGGC library services and Glasgow Life, to provide access to the charity’s extensive online library offer for patients.
A bid was made to NHSGGC’s charitable endowment fund in order to source a number of IPads to facilitate the project which enabled the team to secure enough kit to make the new e-service worthwhile.
To help with rollout, a group of volunteers – those fantastic red-shirted folk who do so much to improve live for patients across NHSGGC – will be on hand to help with set-up and support patients to get the maximum benefit from the new service.
Once operational, the team is planning to use the new service to run book clubs, and beside every bed there will be a wipeable board, detailing what a patient is reading or listening to at the time.
Eilidh added: “These patients are with us for weeks or months, sometimes upwards of a year, so as well as simply relieving boredom, this new service will bring a huge range of benefits for patients.
“The new book clubs will bring patients together, giving them an important opportunity for much-needed social interaction. The bedside boards will be a great conversation-starter for staff and will give them an opportunity to really connect with patients.”
The initiative builds on similar work led by Sandra Shields, NHSGGC’s Alzheimer’s Scotland Dementia Nurse Consultant and her occupational therapy colleagues at Glasgow Royal Infirmary.
The teams at neurology will continue with the partnership. Reading can be a significant help with cognitive rehabilitation, and the dexterity required to operate an iPad can bring real physical benefits, so using the new service could actually help with a patient’s treatment.
Staff in the INS are planning to monitor the new service as it’s rolled out, to gain valuable information on how patients react.
“We plan to run a survey before rollout, and then give patients a follow-up questionnaire at discharge,” said Eilidh. “We hope this will identify benefits in terms of how they feel, what positive effects the service has had, and what patients think its impact has been on their rehabilitation and what they think we could improve.
“If, as we hope, there’s a positive impact, then there’s a real chance that using the e-library services will reduce a patient’s length of stay in hospital.”
Councillor David McDonald, Chair of Glasgow Life and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “We have seen first-hand the positive impact that books and reading can have on individuals, and we know that access to many Glasgow Life services can have a transformative effect on health and wellbeing.
“By working together with NHSGGC, we are not only able to provide patients with the many therapeutic and recreational benefits of books and reading, this partnership could also be life-changing for patients, helping to aid recovery and possibly reduce their stay in hospital.
“There is clear evidence of the positive health and wellbeing benefits that access to culture, including reading and music, can offer. I’m delighted that this partnership with NHSGGC is taking Glasgow Life’s services to people who will most benefit from them and providing access on their terms. I welcome this initiative and look forward to exploring more ways that Glasgow Life can work together with NHSGGC to support the people of our city.”
Glasgow Life’s popular eOffer provides library members with access to more than three million eBooks, eMagazines, audio books and music. The wide range of services are all available to download or stream for free via the Glasgow Libraries app.
There are already plans to expand the use of this service to other areas and eventually to roll it out across the health board – and the sheer good fortune of how it came about is not lost on Eilidh.
She added: “This all came from the fact I ran into a consultant in a corridor. I find it so rewarding that a chance conversation like that could have such long-term benefits for our patients.”
It is hoped that virtual training of volunteers will begin before Christmas, and that the service will be rolled out across the INS before January 2022.