Background Community paediatric services at Bedford, UK offers clinical support to all 3 local special needs schools. A multidisciplinary clinic with a paediatrician and special needs nursing team takes place once a week, and with child and adolescent mental health services team once in 6–8 weeks at the school sites. However, because of COVID-19 pandemic all schools closed in March 2020 and we had to stop face to face clinics. We converted these clinics into initially telephone and subsequently either telephone/video consultations.
Objectives The objective of our study was to assess how parents of children and young people(CYP) with special needs feel about this transition to virtual clinics.
Methods CYP attending special schools in Bedford, who are under the care of community paediatricians (n=397), were selected for the study. Parents of children, who were seen in virtual clinics between 01/07/2020 and 31/10/2020, were approached for feedback (n=110). This was part of a wider survey related to these children’s anxiety and emotional difficulties during lock-down. A link to the questionnaire was send to parents’ phone/Email after explaining the study and obtaining verbal consent. All responses were recorded in the IQVIA Connection survey website (https://www.oc-meridian.com/cambsCommunityServices). No sensitive or personal identifiable data were used.
Results We received 53 responses from parents. 31(58.49%) have neurodevelopmental disorder (autism spectrum disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), 14(26.41%) have learning disabilities, 5(9.43%) have neuro disabilities (cerebral palsy/global developmental delay, and 3(5.66%) have other conditions such as chromosomal deletions.
27(50.94%) parents felt that a virtual appointment with a paediatrician and nurses were very good and another 16(30.18%) felt it was good. 2(3.77%) of them felt it was neither good nor poor. None of them felt it was poor or very poor service but 8(15.09%) either did not answer this question or said I don’t know. We also requested feedback from them about their experience and their comments are summarized in table 1.
Conclusions Overall, parents felt very much reassured that we are running a service during lockdown. However one parent felt that her child was too complex to be seen in virtual clinic. Our observations support the idea of multidisciplinary virtual clinics for special needs children but we agree that it cannot replace face to face consultations.
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