Objectives: The COVID-19 pandemic caused a rapid shift to remote consultations. United Kingdom (UK) NHS Allied Health Professional (AHP) services may have been unprepared for telehealth implementation. This study explored these services' organisational readiness regarding telehealth guidelines implementation and staff training.
Methods: A cross-sectional online survey exploring available telehealth guidelines and staff training was distributed among UK AHPs and AHP service managers between May and June 2021.
Results: 658 participants answered the survey (119 managers and 539 clinicians). Most services, in which telehealth was in place, had implemented telehealth guidelines (clinicians, 64%; managers, 82%), with most guidelines produced by the NHS staff who use them for their consultations. Most clinicians reported that guidelines had ambiguous areas (e.g., regarding protection from litigation and dealing with emergencies), whereas most managers reported the opposite opinion. Guidelines most frequently reported on appropriate telehealth technology and environment for staff and patients, while recommended consultation length and how to conduct telehealth with certain population groups were least reported. Clinicians lacked training in most telehealth aspects, while managers reported that staff training focused on telehealth software and hardware. For both clinicians and managers, training is needed on how to deal with emergencies during telehealth.
Conclusions: UK NHS AHP services are not fully equipped with clear and comprehensive guidelines and the skills to deliver telehealth. Vulnerable people are excluded from current guidelines, which may widen health inequalities and hinder the success of the NHS digital transformation. The absence of national guidelines highlights the need for uniform AHP telehealth guidelines.
Keywords: Allied Health Professionals; Guidelines; Telehealth.
© 2022. The Author(s).