We changed our services because of coronavirus – this is what we’ve learned

18 June 2020
By Zoe Welch and Chris Barnes 

To keep people as safe as possible during the coronavirus pandemic, we made some changes to the support we offer.  

Some of these changes were significant, like asking people to attend a pharmacy every two weeks instead of daily, and offering group sessions digitally rather than face to face.  

We wanted to know how people using our services felt about these changes, so since March we have been creating new ways to listen to feedback.  

By July, we had feedback from 519 people who use our services. We asked them to tell us in their own words: 

  1. What changes do you like? 
  2. What changes don’t you like? 
  3. What could we do differently? 
  4. Overall, do you think we are providing you with the support you need?  

To help us understand the results, our service user involvement and research teams worked with researchers at the University of Manchester.  

We’re sharing this research in the hope that it’s useful and insightful for other organisations.  

Here’s what we found.   

Some changes made people feel trusted and safe 

For some people, changes to services allowed them to feel trusted, safe, and supported. The changes affected how some services communicate, and people have appreciated the ways we have kept in touch with them.  

Changes to prescribing have met the needs of people using services. People have reported liking the convenience of these changes and the freedom that less restrictive practices have provided. People have also appreciated online support and regular phone contact.  

Overall, it’s meant people have more time because they aren’t “tied down” to appointments in towns or city centres, and they don’t need to queue at a chemist to get their prescription.  

In some instances, people said that telephone and online contact was better than the usual groups and one to ones. People who use our services told us that telephone contact, for example, is less formal, less intense and there’s less pressure. This meant they felt more comfortable to be themselves.  

We’ve heard that there are some changes that service users would like to stay the same after lockdown.  

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"I like the fortnightly collection, I like that I don't have to sit down in the chemist and then be given my methadone and having to drink it in front of everyone.

I felt a little humiliated and now I feel more dignified. My confidentiality is respected and I am trusted. I stopped using on top of my prescription because I have it at home and this give me the freedom to take my dose at the time I choose and works better for me."

Loneliness and isolation  

For some people, these changes made them feel anxious. We heard that restrictions to normal ways of working have reduced the level of support people were used to. For people using our services, staff have not been able to engage in the same ways we did before. Early on in lockdown, many people wanted things to get back to normal.  

Whilst some people preferred phone and online contact, for others it wasn’t enough. Not everyone has access to zoom and for some people the physical building is a “safe space”. This explains why people have told us they would like new ways of working which provide real options for support and treatment. People asked for options which increase support and communication, and included a mix of familiar and new ways of working.  

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"My new routine is wake up early, take my methadone at home, go back to sleep and get up and get ready for work and this helps me to feel well in the morning and is helping me maintain my employment.” 

Increasing frequency of contact 

Service users gave us ideas about what they’d like to see more of going forward. They wanted to see us focusing on more contact and increased support for people at home during lockdown.  

In particular, we heard that service user reps have been a “lifeline”. People also suggested we look into running groups outside, where we can maintain social distancing guidelines whilst also getting the opportunity to connect in person.  

But this shouldn’t replace online meetings and groups and the digital options should stay. Instead we heard that people would like a mix. Both options should be available so service users have more choice in the ways that they use our services in the future, depending how they are feeling.  

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"I love my daily routine with attending five different groups a week with Change Grow Live. I feel safe because of the support I am receiving. I do not feel isolated or lonely during the pandemic. I am so grateful to Change Grow Live and my keyworker.” 

What next? 

The survey will stay open and we want people to carry on giving us feedback. Keeping the survey open means we can find out how people feel at different points and explore changing views over time.  

Over the coming weeks, we’re going to start acting on this feedback but keep listening to what’s working and what isn’t. We’re going to add demographic data and explore themes more.  

Was this useful?  

If it’s useful, we’ll keep posting updates on our website too. So if you’ve found this blog interesting, please do let us know. The best way to contact us is to send us a tweet or you can email Zoe, our Head of Research.