Connecting Business – Growing Opportunities

Dr Margaret Whoriskey Interview on Responding to Covid-19 Crisis

Ahead of our Meet the Members - Responding to Covid-19 online event on 10 June,  Dr Margaret Whoriskey shares details of how she and her team responded to the crisis and their vital collaborations with colleagues in Ireland.

Name: Dr Margaret Whoriskey MBE 

Role: Director, Technology Enabled Care, Scottish Government

What does your current role involve?

I am responsible for the Technology Enabled Care programme in Scottish Government. My work involves cross sector collaboration on health and care initiatives, delivering technology enabled care to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for Scottish citizens.  

We work, with our partners, on a range of programmes including:

• video enabled health and care
• home and mobile health monitoring 
• mental  health 
• telecare  

We are passionate about using technology to redesign services. We collaborate nationally and internationally to deliver new, effective and cost effective health and care solutions. These solutions have never been more relevant than they are today.

How has the Covid-19 crisis impacted your work?

Covid-19 had a big impact on our programme of work and on my team. We needed to significantly accelerate a number of projects in order to deliver faster solutions to help alleviate the pressures on  the  health and care services. We had a plan scheduled to deliver by 2021, which was suddenly required within weeks.  

With rapid re-planning, collaborating and adapting different working norms, we rose to the challenge. An example of this is a video consulting programme called Near Me.There was a target, agreed in February this year ( pre COVID emergency), to achieve around 3,000 video health consultations a month by the end March 2021.  

The Covid-19 crisis necessitated accelerating that programme, with a re-procurement sorted within 3 days (which was a first).  By the end of May 2020, we had over 14,000 consultations a week taking place, and still growing. This was almost 20 times more than the initial proposal and we delivered it within three months.  

How did you manage to scale up that  programme so quickly?

Well, first I took a big deep breath! The team mobilised immediately and worked brilliantly in responding to the crisis. We reprioritised and refocused resources and capability. We also collaborated closely with other organisations, which was key in overcoming the many barriers. When everyone is working to a common aim it’s amazing what you can achieve.


Were there other aspects of your work impacted by Covid-19?

Almost all of our work has been impacted. Our remote monitoring programme aims to support people to self-manage their health and care in certain conditions, such as hypertension (by checking your blood pressure at home and reporting it via text messaging). We applied this approach to procure an immediate solution for COVID patients but also for people with a range of conditions where the aim  is to monitor and support people as far as possible at home, avoiding hospitals for foreseeable future.  

We accelerated procurement and implementation of a range of digital mental health services for use across Scotland.  

An additional area of focus has been on care homes both with regard to supporting the immediacy of the Covid-19 emergency but also supporting effective approaches going forward. 

We are also involved in the Connecting Scotland programme, which is focused on people who are digitally excluded. It’s led by colleagues in Scottish Government, working with partners, and initiated as a response  to Covid-19. The aim is to identify digitally excluded people, support them with the appropriate technology and help them to access the right health and wellbeing support as well as range of other services and support.  

Does your work involve any collaboration across the Irish Sea?

Collaborating with our Irish colleagues is an important part of what we do – and an enjoyable part of my job as I live in Scotland but I’m from Galway.   

We’re part of the Scottish Irish Collaboration supported by the Scottish and Irish governments.  I’m  coordinating the Health Digital, Data and Innovation Workstream. I work with colleagues in Department of Health in the Irish government and the HSE (Irish Health Service Executive) and we share best practice and work together where we can. The video consultation Near Me programme is a great example. We supported Irish government to set up their own platform and programme

We’re also working with Ireland and Northern Ireland on the Interreg VA  programme –agreeing shared programmes of work which can be funded through this initiative.

How has your working day changed as a result of Covid-19? 

Like many people, Covid-19 has meant that I am working remotely all the time. Previously my work was mixed with time in the office, travelling to meetings, attending events and only occasionally working from home.  A varied day is now replaced by sitting at a desk all day and many meetings by audio and video conference.  One day I had 12 video conference meetings back to back, and I must confess my brain felt a bit fried! 

There have been many positives about the way we’ve had to work due to Covid-19.  We’ve accelerated many programmes of work, adopted an action focus, made quicker decision and achieved faster rollout of programmes.  I think there has also been a real shift in attitude to roll out technology both within the health sector and also with citizens.  I’m determined to sustain some of these benefits going forward.  

There will also likely be more home working in the future with less time in the office and less travelling to attend events or meetings.  We’ve shown what we can achieve by working remotely.  It is often easier, more time effective and cheaper to get people from a range of locations together for a video conference than trying to schedule a face to face workshop.  

How did you become involved with Causeway?

Like many things, someone recommended it to me. I went to a Causeway event and found it great to connect with people interested in Irish / Scottish collaboration. I found Causeway to be a friendly and accessible network and one where I meet interesting people. Initially I thought it was only aimed at the private sector but it seems to be shifting to be relevant to professionals from all sectors.  

Scotland and Ireland are similar size populations and have cultural similarities. Many of our  issues and goals are similar. We don’t have to invent everything ourselves. There are great benefits of having strong collaborations and in a Brexit world it is even more important to maintain and strengthen those relationships. I think Causeway can play an important role in this.  

Personally, I’m from Ireland, married to a Scot, living in Edinburgh and my kids are equally proud of their Irish and Scottish heritage – so for many reasons I’m a fan of Scottish-networking!

Join Margaret online at our Meet the Members - Responding to Covid-19 online event at 4pm Wednesday 10 June.

Register here > 

All Causeway online events are currently FREE and open to both members and non-members.

View our forthcoming events here! >

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