Lithium Carbonate is the medication most commonly used by people with bipolar disorder and it is very strictly administered. Patients need to have their lithium blood level checked every 3 months, their kidney and thyroid function checked every 6 months and attend a full annual health check with their healthcare provider. The results of these tests used to be logged in a paper booklet that patients were required to carry with them during appointments and when collecting their prescription. However, thanks to the new NHS Physical Health Monitor (for Lithium) app, patients can keep track of these results via their smartphones and benefit from quicker prescription requests.
Although the app is initially being trialled with patients using lithium, the Trust has ambitions to develop a framework which can be adapted for a broad range of medicines. Dee Evans, Pharmacist at the Trust, commented “I hope that all those who download the app will find it a really useful addition to their mental health wellbeing by allowing easy recording of vital test results, setting reminders for forthcoming test dates and recording quality of their sleep and moods which can be used it to guide discussions with their healthcare team.”
The Trust has also invested in new technology to make appointments more convenient for busy patients. Face to face appointments – when taking into account the travel and waiting time – can be time consuming for patients. SWLStG has developed an innovative way of offering patients the option to have an appointment with their doctor via Skype, with no need for them to leave their home or office. The Trust ran a pilot of the scheme to see how it would work and whether patients were receptive to the idea. Patients were not chosen for the trial if they did not want to participate or if doctors thought they wouldn’t be suitable. All patients who used it said they were happy with the experience and would definitely use it again.
Dr Suhana Ahmed, a clinician at the Trust and a member of the clinical team who took part in the pilot, said "I feel very passionately about the advantages of Skype consultations for those patients that it is suitable for. Skype consultations give more information than telephone calls as I can see patient's expressions - which is very important in mental health.
"Skype will also help patients who find it difficult to take time off work, or can't travel to appointments because of health issues that make it difficult for them to make the journey.”