15 June 2021

Over the past four years, Parkinson’s UK and FutureGov have built a partnership based on innovation, collaboration and an underlying mission to improve the lives of those with Parkinson's, a progressive neurological condition. 18,000 new people are being diagnosed each year, changing the lives of not only these people but their families and friends. With specialists working as part of blended service transformation teams, we’ve supported how user research, service design and agile ways of working have been used to design and develop a completely new service model for the organisation, Parkinson's Connect.

When the pandemic hit, Parkinson’s UK faced one of its biggest challenges yet: how to accelerate the move already underway from traditional telephone and face-to-face services to a digitally enabled model. And critically, how to embed these new hybrid and remote ways of working into the culture and ways of working for the longer term.

Helping communities, virtually

By guiding the Parkinson’s team in building their in-house service design and research capabilities, we had already supported their pivot to approaches that put people and their loved ones living with the condition at the centre of new support and guidance services.

The charity’s advisers are frontline staff who provide generalist and expert advice for people and loved ones living with Parkinson’s. They’re the connector and the face (or more recently, voice) of the organisation. For most of the staff at the charity, a shift away from face-to-face support to phone and video calls due to the pandemic was the largest change they’d experienced in their careers.

Previously, staff visited people at home with regular opportunities to share knowledge and tips in the kitchen or across a desk with their colleagues. However, with at-home visits on hold, the day-to-day experience of staff has shifted significantly.

The team take calls in their own homes, from people who are experiencing different and more complex challenges, often enhanced by isolation or COVID restrictions. Normally leaning on their colleagues for advice and guidance, informal peer-to-peer learning has been hard to replicate online, with natural conversations and sharing harder to come by.

In our most recent work, we’ve been working with the frontline team on how they can develop their skills, knowledge and confidence in a remote world. Taking a guiding role, it’s the charity staff that led on the project, shaping and delivering the work that would help them continue to support people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones through lifelong changes, from a safe distance.

Adapting to meet demands in a remote world

Traditional training days no longer work in a hybrid world. Building their inhouse service design and research capabilities, Parkinson’s UK staff began shaping new ideas around their internal development and practical peer support by looking to:

  • develop an online hub of knowledge management tools and resources, including links to quick ‘how to’ guides and customer journey maps for more complex queries
  • create a stronger locally-led learning culture, which empowers local teams to determine their own development needs and resources
  • share learning from UK teams more regularly, creating learning networks to share best practice tips and tricks, including recent articles, policy changes, tools from online courses and inspiration

As staff lead on taking this project forward, they’re about to begin planning and testing these ideas by starting small. Although this project started off as a skills audit, it quickly developed into a creative, bold and fast-paced exploration. Staff have unearthed solutions built around their own experiences and those of the people they support each and every day.

Working closely with frontline teams at the charity we’ve been able to guide them through more inclusive decision-making as they adapt to meet the new complexities of the COVID crisis. Supporting, building and encouraging staff to grow their own research capabilities in-house has helped them begin to creatively address their own challenges.

As restrictions continue to ease, and the UK adapts to meet the changes caused by events of the last year, Parkinson's UK and their staff are ready to adapt, grow and meet the urgent needs of those they strive to help.

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