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Project ECHO – Care Homes


Image of virus with the text Environmental cleanliness in care homes - COVID-2019 previously known as Wuhan Novel Coronavirus. What are our objectives? Answers: Describe the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment that should be used. Key steps of cleaning. Understanding environmental cleanliness standards. Touch point awareness.

Northern Ireland’s Project ECHO initiative has supported nursing homes, residential homes and care at home staff throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Using videoconferencing technology, Project ECHO NI has been able to provide a safe virtual space for education, training, sharing best practice and supporting staff working in highly pressured and challenging situations.

Funded by the Health and Social Care Board, Project ECHO NI uses Zoom technology to connect communities of practice.  This really came in to its own during the pandemic when social distancing measures were required. Participants come together in real time to receive updates, new guidance, build relationships and learn from each other. These sessions are interactive so staff have the opportunity to seek answers to questions and concerns they have. Staff also has the opportunity to learn through anonnomised case discussions.

ECHO provided instant access to much needed support – demonstrated by the high numbers involved  – over 3000 people from mid-march until the end of June.

These sessions continue to run 1-2 times a week in each Trust area and are supported by Trust teams responsible for care homes.

The Public Health Agency, Health Protection Unit and RQIA have been able to use this established method to get messages out quickly to the sector also. Some of their sessions have had almost 300 people participate.

Recent examples of this have been sessions on ‘Swabbing of residents’ and ‘Environmental Cleanliness in Care Homes’.

Nursing home networks were already established pre-COVID so having the foundation already there along with the infrastructure including the dedicated ECHO team and technology, this enabled ECHO NI to hit the ground running as soon as the pandemic started.

One of the care home leads said: “We could not have got through the worst of the pandemic without our ECHO network. We continue to feel much supported by your entire team and are very grateful for this.”

Nursing Consultant, Gary Cousins says: “ECHO has provided a platform to engage with Care Homes on a large scale through the COVID-19 pandemic. We have been able to facilitate education sessions for large volumes of colleagues that would have been unachievable through traditional face to face methods. PHA have been able to complement the ECHO sessions being delivered in local Trust areas with Regional sessions relevant to those across all Trust areas.”

The Echo model prides itself in moving knowledge, not people, in regular real-time collaborative education sessions.

Originally developed in New Mexico as a way to meet local healthcare needs, Project ECHO enables health and social care professionals and partners to use videoconferencing to support and learn from one another through virtual sessions. The service also shares good practice contributing to further development.


For more info on Project ECHO: https://echonorthernireland.co.uk/

Or contact Áine McMullan in Integrated Care – Aine.McMullan@hsnci.net