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Breathing innovation into Wales: Mobile Diagnostic Unit plays vital role in pioneering community diagnostic centre project

Jo Quarterman Jo Quarterman

Published 12 May 2022

Breathing innovation into Wales: Mobile Diagnostic Unit plays vital role in pioneering community diagnostic centre project Clinical capacity

Welsh respiratory patients struggling to access diagnostic and screening examinations due to a post-Covid backlog will soon be able to visit a mobile community diagnostic centre (CDC) following the “invaluable” input of EMS Healthcare and its mobile clinical units.

A pioneering new project, launching this month and led by Respiratory Innovation Wales (RIW), will deliver decentralised healthcare services to hard-to-reach populations. It aims to offer an increase in convenience for patients across the country and, ultimately, an assessment on whether a similar model can be used as a foundation for other diagnostic provisions facing similar challenges.

By using Liberty, a multifunctional EMS Healthcare mobile clinical unit featuring two consultation rooms, the project will:

  • Tackle the backlogs created by Covid-19 restrictions on the use of aerosol generating procedures
  • Reduce footfall within acute hospital sites
  • Limit the impact of new, more transmissible variants of Covid-19

Dr Philip Webb, Chief Executive of Respiratory Innovation Wales, said: “We’re really interested in how we provide care closer to home. Mobile units allow us the ability to interact with our patient population within areas that are convenient for them and, particularly post-Covid, it removes the anxiety of going to a hospital, with mobile units encouraging patients to be more comfortable and assured in accessing care closer to home and outside of a hospital environment.

“This allows us to look at what decentralised care means, particularly post-Covid when we have backlogs of patients who don’t want to access acute services in a hospital site but desperately need diagnostic and screening examinations.”

The project, which also involves Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, Hywel Dda University Health Board, and Life Sciences Hub Wales, aims to address a situation that has seen significant fall in both appointments and diagnostic procedures among respiratory health patients. This is essential because one in 12 people in Wales have a respiratory illness and respiratory disease is now the country’s leading cause of ill health (36%). Wales also has the highest prevalence of asthma in Europe.

The use of Liberty mobile clinics helps to resolve the current issues of Wales’s healthcare estate size. It is also hoped that the community diagnostic centre will provide a more agreeable experience for patients who refused to attend previous appointments due to either a fear of Covid-19 transmission or the inconvenience of travelling long distances. Each mobile Liberty unit houses Covid-19 testing measures, assuring both clinicians and patients they are in a safe environment.

Jo Quarterman, EMS Healthcare's Divisional Director for Clinical Capacity, said: “We’re delighted to be working with our partners on this incredibly important project. Taking care into the community, to reach the most in-need and underrepresented groups, is a core part of our mission. We’re proud to be enhancing patient access and convenience across Wales, and we hope the final evaluation of this project will help to provide a model of scalable decentralised healthcare services.”

Dr Philip Webb added: “EMS Healthcare’s mobile units have excellent specifications and the ability to use several different sites to take care closer to home for our population, across a large geographical area.

“The facilities are state-of-the-art and provide a diagnostic clinical space that provides plenty of scope for us to do the work we envisage doing for our patients and population.

“A critical component of this project was choosing the right partner to provide decentralised mobile clinical care, and EMS has provided excellent expertise in the planning process, both in its flexibility around the considerations and inputting support with site selection and management, operational issues, and waste management. The team at EMS is flexible, pragmatic, and has really applied its expertise. Its input into this project has been invaluable.”