These are unprecedented times. Nothing before has created such intense pressure on the NHS and its resources.

Makeshift hospitals such as the Nightingale have opened with nearly 4,000 beds and staff are working long shifts with no respite in the flow of very ill patients. I’m staggered and very proud of how the NHS has mobilised and the staff have kept going.

As we all know, this is not just happening in London, it’s happening in towns and cities across the UK in anticipation of managing the anticipated peak in the number of COVID-19 patients.

By the end of last month more than 20,000 retired staff had returned to the NHS, to help relieve the pressure. We have sadly seen how for many, this has equated to putting their own health at risk while on the front line of this crisis.

For those with underlying health conditions or co-morbidities that put them at additional risk from the virus, the desire to help the NHS presents a genuine dilemma.

Many retired clinicians, who want to support the NHS, are understandably nervous of returning to the front line. To access this available pool of talent, and overcome the massive challenge facing our nation, the NHS is adapting and using new technologies which in turn facilitate new models of working.

The challenge for the NHS is of course not just COVID-19 but the steady flow of other emergency diseases, cancers etc has not slowed down.

We especially need ways to enable experienced, knowledgeable clinical staff currently being isolated, to continue to support their juniors and other colleagues who are on-site, looking after patients with the full range of diseases.

Doctors will always want to help in a crisis, and we must to ensure they will be given the best possible tools to deliver in this challenging environment.

Remote working technology offers great benefit to the NHS – enabling specialists, radiologists, acute and other frontline staff to securely review and discuss the ongoing clinical management of all those coming to hospital as well as the growing coronavirus caseload no matter their location - facilitating rapid diagnosis and treatment of patients.

This remote support can be exceptionally valuable, and provides doctors in isolation a way to support and contribute to the battle against coronavirus. For instance, in many situations, registrars are having to make highly significant decisions and would value the input of a senior clinician.

Also, all too often, there are simply not enough radiologists to report coronavirus studies in addition to existing non-coronavirus case reporting commitments.

There is a need to engage with willing clinicians in quarantine. They can offer guidance and support during this crisis but also general supervision and management across all clinical areas as the NHS continues to deliver on-going care.

next story

I am delighted that, at Feedback Medical, we’ve made our tool Bleepa free to all NHS frontline staff.

Images displayed on Bleepa are certified as being of clinical review quality in compliance with RCR guidelines. Cases can be discussed through secure instant messaging and image annotation allowing decisions to be communicated instantly between team members which can be invaluable when input is needed from clinicians.

Bleepa works on any internet connected device including mobile phones, laptops and desktops meaning that clinicians already have the hardware that they need at home.

The NHS is doing a fantastic job in unprecedented circumstances. There is an additional workforce at home that wants to help – we just need to provide them the means.