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ROS staff and volunteers ‘reach out to help out’ during the pandemic

Impact | Media releases

16 Nov 2020

The Royal Osteoporosis Society pulled out all the stops to reach out to over 7,300 older osteoporosis sufferers during lockdown to reassure them that our team of specialist nurses were there for them when most needed and to help plug the gap in NHS support during the pandemic for those most at risk.

The massive outreach programme was a vital lifeline for people who were self-isolating and therefore excluded from their usual healthcare services, treatments, specialist assessments and face-to-face appointments with their GP.

We successfully secured a £260,000 Government grant for charities providing ‘life-saving’ support services in May. The funds enabled us to bring back from furlough its team of specialist nurses and key staff to ensure that our helpline could meet demand and resume full-time hours.

In addition, this funded a massive outreach programme to reconnect with over 8,000 healthcare professionals (HCPs) working in osteoporosis care and across the UK’s critical Fracture Liaison Services.

ROS then utilised valuable feedback from both activities to compile a comprehensive range of additional digital ‘help’ materials and information on the website to meet demand. This included its ‘Covid-19 Hub’ with dedicated resources helping HCPs to safely manage osteoporosis patients through the pandemic.

The clinical team worked closely with comms colleagues to generate these extra resources including bespoke patient-facing videos, webinars and toolkits for HCPs, and additional newsletters and social media posts. Topics covered everything from tips on how to avoid falls and fractures, to advice on medication, side effects and attending hospital appoints during lockdown. In total we achieved a phenomenal 240,000 hits from this tailored content from members, HCPs and the public from June to the end of September.

Typically, the osteoporosis helpline handles around 1,000 inbound calls a month from members seeking information and support on the fragile bone condition. The outreach campaign trebled this workload smashing tough targets set by ROS and endorsed by the Department of Health and NHS England. It was a cross charity effort involving staff and volunteers from several teams contacting thousands of members aged from 67 to 102 years.

Feedback from our members was incredibly positive with seven in ten (70%) of those contacted saying they would call the helpline nurses in the future. Many said the communications were a ‘lifeline’ and described their recent loneliness and isolation saying it was the first call they had received in days.

One member said: “I had been feeling very low and felt like a frail old lady but the call made me realise that there were exercises I could do and that I wasn’t past it! It was a superb and very welcome call.”

ROS Director of Clinical and Operations Francesca Thompson said: “The osteoporosis helpline is an invaluable lifeline for those living with the condition and provides expert support and information.

“Osteoporosis can be a devastating condition which can leave people feeling frightened, isolated and alone but it doesn’t have to be like that and our team of expert nurses have a wealth of experience which can help people live life to the full.

“During lockdown, patients lost access to their GPs, had hospital appointments cancelled and went without the crucial treatments and assessments that are so key to managing their osteoporosis. Our outreach programme reassured them that help is available and we’re only a phone call away.

“Many of those we spoke to had had little or no contact with their GP and their healthcare professionals and so we were able to give them that extra support and valuable resources that they were missing.”

“This was a phenomenal piece of work which tested our team of specialist nurses on the helpline to the max.

“It really was a case of reaching out to help out and to show those suffering from this devastating and life threatening condition that we were there for them with the help and support they needed at this crucially difficult time for the health service.”

The ROS also produced a White Paper for the Parliamentary Health Select Committee: ‘Delivering core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond’.  This outlined essential advice for service leaders and policy makers on the importance of taking action to prevent further fractures as we ‘Restore, Rebuild and Reset’ the NHS. It described the challenges facing musculoskeletal and osteoporosis services in the Covid-19 crisis and highlighted issues affecting those with osteoporosis during the pandemic.

ROS CEO Craig Jones said: “We exceeded all targets with hundreds of hours on the phone speaking to members from the age of 67 to 102. When the NHS was rightly focused on dealing with Covid-patients and routine vital care in lockdown we were able to step in and provide the support they needed. We’re confident these efforts have mitigated the prospect of a secondary crisis of falls and fractures.

“Like many other healthcare charities, we want to show Government that by investing in our vital support services now we can save the NHS considerable resources in the long run through prevention and catching problems early.”

The Royal Osteoporosis Society’s free helpline is 0808 800 0035.