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Patient care during COVID-19

Helen Kendrew, Medical Director of CARE Bath and CARE Bristol, explains how we are making sure all of our patients receive the very best patient care during COVID-19.

 

We are all learning to live with Covid-19 and, along with all work places in the United Kingdom, CARE Fertility has had to adapt. You will notice that we have made changes in our clinics to make sure that we look after and protect our staff and, of course, our patients. Though we might be working a little differently, we are committed to continuing to give you the best, patient-centred care, and ensure that you have a really positive and personal experience with us during these strange and stressful times.

 

First steps

We have always been keen to show you around our centres, and have held really useful patient open evenings in the past, giving you the opportunity for a 1-2-1 meeting with one of our consultants, embryologist or specialist nurses. Unfortunately, we cannot offer these at the moment.  However, we are holding online information events, such as a Facebook Live information event about CARE Bath and CARE Bristol which I am hosting on Thursday 30th July at 7pm. Click here to join our event on Facebook, or find out about all our upcoming fertility and IVF information events.

  


Starting fertility treatment: everything you need to know. Online fertility information event with Helen Kendrew, Clinic Director of CARE Fertility Bath and CARE Fertility Bristol


If you are considering IVF treatment, you’re likely to have questions about your fertility and your options. Helen Kendrew, Clinic Director of CARE Bath and CARE Bristol, will be answering all your questions live on Thursday 30th July at 7pm in this Facebook event, talking about everything you need to know when starting fertility treatment – including the key things to consider when choosing a fertility clinic, especially during COVID-19. Join our Facebook event here and we hope you can join Helen on Thursday!

 

If an online information event isn’t for you, there are lots of other ways to find out about CARE and our teams. You are very welcome to ring our dedicated patient enquiry team, who are extremely knowledgeable about all our treatments. They are very kind and understanding and will be happy to answer all your questions to give you an idea of what it feels like to go through treatment. They can also send you more detailed information about your local CARE clinic, or the treatment you are interested in, and book you a consultation.

 

If you would like to ring the clinic directly you are very welcome. Our helpful patient advisors can offer you guidance and support, and will be pleased to arrange appointments or telephone discussions with the nurses or embryologists for more detailed information.

Our website is also a very useful resource – we post lots of helpful advice from our world-leading fertility experts. You can be sure to never miss an update by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

 

CARE Bath Fertility Nurse Kerry Price (left) and one of our Health CARE Assistants, Hannah Long, in PPE. Not all of our teams will be wearing PPE when you visit, but we will be wearing PPE where appropriate.  

 

Before your consultation

Once you have booked your consultation, we will invite you to join our secure, online Patient Portal. This is how we will keep in touch with you throughout your journey with CARE, and it is really fantastic - everything related to your treatment is in one place so things are clear and convenient.  You can complete consent forms online and your investigations can be uploaded and it can all be done in the comfort of your home. If you have any difficulty with our Portal, we have a dedicated Portal Support Team – though patients often comment on how easy the Portal is to use!

We can arrange for at-home hormone testing and can send you a simple kit in the post, and we have also streamlined our semen analysis service. We will send you everything you need in the post, and will plan with you a suitable appointment time to drop your sample off at the clinic.

As part of the wider precautions we need to take, we will ask you to complete a COVID-19 screening questionnaire: to identify patients who are at risk of, or already have, an active COVID-19 infection, helping to keep everyone safe by making sure that no-one with the virus visits our clinic.

If you are concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19, you can of course access testing through the NHS, or we can offer you a test to check if you currently have the infection, as well as a test to check if you’ve previously had the virus and now have the antibodies, which you may find reassuring. You can arrange a COVID-19 test with us at any point in your treatment, in case you wished to check before your embryo transfer, for example.

 

Planning your treatment

Before you attend your consultation, your consultant will thoroughly review your medical history along with all test results to make sure that the full hour of your consultation is dedicated to discussing your fertility options in detail with you. During your consultation, your consultant will get to know you more, listening to your wishes and hopes for fertility treatment. Once all the information about you is gathered, we will work with you to create a personalised treatment plan to suit you.

We believe that this personalised treatment plan is key – everyone is different, and we know how important it is to have a truly personalised treatment plan to give you your best chance of success. At the moment, your consultant will recommend a treatment plan based on your medical history and wishes, but also with COVID-19 in mind, so we may recommend a slightly adapted medical protocol than if you had started treatment prior to the outbreak of this pandemic. 

 

Adapted medication protocols during COVID-19

During COVID-19, we are taking steps to further reduce the risk of patients developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), including by recommending an adapted medication protocol for certain patients. In this video, Mark Wilcox, CARE's Group Medical Director, explains adapted protocols for fertility treatment during COVID-19.

 

After your consultation

We have always endeavoured to keep visits to the clinic to a minimum as we understand that juggling fertility treatment with work and life commitments can be tricky. We try to complete as much as we can at each visit (for example, same-day semen analysis and ultrasound scan where required) to reduce the number of appointments that you need. As this is especially useful in the present climate, we will be particularly mindful of this when planning your appointments.  

As you will be coming into the clinic fewer times, we will keep in touch in different ways. In addition to sending you messages on your Patient Portal, your clinical team may check in with you with phone calls. You may also wish to organise a Zoom or Skype appointment for extra support. For example, we have created new Injection Teach videosto help you become familiar with administering your medication, but you may also wish to have an online appointment with our nursing team to become confident with your medication.

Fertility treatment can be really tough and it isn’t unusual for you to experience a wide range of feelings and emotions. Our specialist fertility counsellors are here to support you throughout and can offer free appointments on the telephone, Skype or Zoom. Speaking with someone who understands your treatment, in a safe and supportive space, can help you process your emotions and mentally prepare for your fertility treatment.

There is also lots of peer-to-peer support available at CARE, such as our online support meetings, where our dedicated Patient Support Coordinator chats with patients about that month’s theme. If you’d like to speak with another patient who is at a similar stage of treatment to you, you may be interested in our CARE Buddy programme: an opportunity to both receive and offer support and advice to other CARE patients going through the fertility journey.

 

Some of the protective measures in place at our reception in CARE Bath.

 

During treatment

We have recently been able to re-allow patients to be accompanied for certain appointments, such as embryo transfer and pregnancy scans, however this is depending on how we are able to socially distance within the available space in each clinic. So, please do check with your local clinic what is allowed there, as we all know the background situation may change. We are continuously assessing the guidance and will inform all our patients as soon as they can be accompanied to more appointments. If you can’t be accompanied for your treatment, we’ll of course still make sure you have all the support you need.

Things may look different in the clinic – rearranged clinic layouts, protective screens at reception and so on. During treatment procedures many of our staff will be wearing PPE where appropriate, but I hope you will pick up that we are still as smiley underneath our masks!

 

These are just some of the ways we have changed how we work to keep everyone safe – you can read more here. We have always been adaptable and are rising to the challenge to keep you as safe as possible, and I hope you feel that your care and experience with us is at the heart of what we do, despite these challenging circumstances. Please do keep in touch and ask us questions. Never feel that should not bother us or that your question might be silly. We really want to hear from you and put you at ease as you progress through treatment.

 

If you would like to learn more about CARE Bath or CARE Bristol, or wish to ask Helen a question, join us for our next live information event on Facebook on 30th July at 7pm: ‘Starting fertility treatment – everything you need to know’.

 

 

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