2021 Consultant Connect Awards | Advice & Guidance: Best Overall Projects

Published: 8th December 2021
2021 Consultant Connect Awards - read on to find out the winners of the Advice & Guidance: Best Overall Projects category…

As 2021 comes to a close we’re delighted to recognise the achievements of our NHS colleagues with the second annual Consultant Connect Awards. As well as the glory of victory, all winners are receiving a donation to their hospital charities. There are two categories:

  1. Advice & Guidance – Best Overall Projects
  2. Special Achievement

Read on below to find out the Advice & Guidance – Best Overall Projects winners. For the Special Achievement winners click here.

Advice & Guidance: Best Overall Projects 2021

All Consultant Connect projects were scored according to the number of advice and guidance requests they received in the last 12 months per capita, the breadth of their service offering and their call / message answer rates.  And the winners are (in alphabetical order):

WINNER | Bedford, Luton, and Milton Keynes Integrated Care Systems (ICS), including Milton Keynes University Hospital Trust, and Bedford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

In 2021 Bedfordshire, Luton, and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System (BLMK ICS) have continued to expand their Advice & Guidance services for elective, urgent, and mental health across the ICS footprint putting in place patient discharge lines, and messaging options for Teledermatology. They have also supported secondary care teams by using the National Consultant Network (NCN) to reduce patient waiting lists across a number of specialties. Between July 2021 and September 2021, 70% of cases where Advice & Guidance was sought from the NCN have been managed in primary care instead.

GPs can access responsive and specialist advice from the National Consultant Network, allowing local consultants to concentrate on delivering care in the hospital. For example, Teledermatology messaging via the NCN has succeeded in reducing waiting lists for consultations and two-week wait skin cancer referrals, with 71% of Teledermatology cases resulting in a referral being avoided.

Scott Welpton, Director at Consultant Connect, has worked closely with the ICS: “We started working with Luton CCG back in 2015, so it has been a pleasure to work in partnership as Luton CCG, and their neighbouring CCGs have merged into Bedfordshire, Luton, and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System (BLMK ICS). They are a forward-thinking ICS that seeks innovative ways to improve patient care. The timely support provided by the National Consultant Network (NCN) during 2021 has proven invaluable, even more so during a time of recovery and restoration, making sure patients are seen at the right place by the right clinicians at the right time.”

WINNER | NHS North Central London ICS (NCL ICS) including NCL CCG, North Middlesex University Hospital, Royal Free Hospital, Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Whittington Health, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust, and Central London Community Healthcare Trust

In 2020 North Central London ICS (NCL) used the National Consultant Network to rapidly roll out their Advice & Guidance service in parts of their area and provide timely support to GPs at a critical time. In 2021, NCL ICS has continued to expand their Advice & Guidance services across the ICS footprint focussing on engaging local specialty teams to answer A&G calls rather than relying on National Consultant Network only. The astonishing rate of GP uptake has resulted in more than 30,000 A&G activities for patients who otherwise in many cases would have been placed on waiting lists or sent to hospital when an alternative was possible.

Kat James, Director at Consultant Connect has been involved in the project from day one: “This project was one of the fastest ramp-ups of any of our Advice & Guidance projects. One of the success factors is the way the ICS is committed to this. The ICS team and their colleagues in secondary care have worked tirelessly to build and expand the service. The engagement with clinicians, both GPs and specialists at local Trusts, has been enthusiastic and positive. Their rewards are a project with one of the highest rates of usage we have ever seen and large potential for expanding into new services in the community, ambulance services and beyond.”

WINNER | South East London ICS, including Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust

In 2016, a small, 4-specialty project in Greenwich feeding into Lewisham Hospital was the acorn from which the mighty SE London project grew. As the geographic footprint of the project expanded into the neighbouring boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Lambeth, Southwark, and Lewisham, so did the ambition of management. SEL was the first project to embrace all “Enhanced Advice & Guidance”, including telephone, photo messaging, and using the National Consultant Network to support local teams when they couldn’t answer the phone themselves.

This year has seen continued usage of the service across a range of different specialties, with call volumes often exceeding 2,000 placed calls per month. In particular, South East London CCG have set up links to efficiently route GPs to their same day emergency care (SDEC) services, allowing for a more specialised approach when it comes to treating patients in urgent care. The service has also been made available to 111 teams for the first time. This has allowed the local trusts to triage patients for specialties which are pressure points for the hospitals, helping to reduce patient flow at the front door and overall patient wait times.

Jonathan Patrick, CEO of Consultant Connect comments “South East London is actually one of our “elder statesman” projects, a demonstration of what can be achieved if you put advice & guidance at the forefront of patient care over a long period of time. The ICS team is one of the most experienced and expert in the country, with real strength in depth. But there is no resting on laurels here! The volume of new initiatives that we consider every year is testimony to how forward-looking the team is and its willingness to embrace new technology to tackle old problems better. I fully expect them to carry on inventing and rewriting the rulebook!”

WINNER | South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust

Over the past year, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust  (SWFT) have continued to expand their use of Consultant Connect to support rapid communication across their hospital to aid patient flow, discharge, and facilitate peer-to-peer communications. Communications between Multi-Disciplinary teams (MDTs) have been improved through the introduction of photo messaging across the teams – impacting very positively on patient care and efficiency. The team have also led an array of innovative activities which have enhanced collaboration with the local Frailty Team and West Midlands Ambulance Service successfully introducing new pathways and practices to aid appropriate patient referrals. For example, 45% of calls to the Frailty Team from WMAS paramedics have resulted in an avoided admission/attendance to the Emergency Department (ED). The other 55% of calls resulted in necessary admission/attendance to ED or transfer to Frailty Assessment Area (FAA), following specialist Advice & Guidance. SWFT have also pioneered the use Patient Initiated Follow Up (PIFU) in Rheumatology with 72% of patient queries often resolved in that first call.

 Lucy Sammons, Chief Operating Officer, Consultant Connect comments: “We work with a lot of projects and there are loads of brilliant, motivated teams out there at all levels, but the speed in which SWFT has improved communications using the Consultant Connect platform delivering true integration and improving patient care is impressive. Medical professionals from different healthcare settings can now rapidly discuss a patient’s care and make a joint decision. SWFT is a shining example to everyone in the NHS to show how quickly they can move when it’s done right.”

WINNER | South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM)

Consultant Connect allows clinicians at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) to rapidly contact nearby hospital doctors in over 80 specialties for recommendations on their patients, without the need for a full referral. People diagnosed with a serious mental illness have a reduced life expectancy of between 15 and 20 years, due to their worse physical health. But two-thirds of the time, use of Consultant Connect by clinicians at SLaM has successfully enabled them to treat their patient’s physical as well as mental health over the last year.

Consultant Connect is already widely used all over the NHS, but SLaM is the first mental health trust in the UK to make use of it in this way.

Scott Welpton Director at Consultant Connect has been closely involved in the project: “It is a fact that patients suffering serious mental health issues also have worse physical health outcomes. South London and Maudsley are innovators and have provided their clinicians at the Mental Health Trust to over 80 physical specialties at the local physical health trusts to provide immediate advice when their patients need it. This is a simple solution that provides real improvements in patient care. A fantastic achievement by lead nurse Ray McGrath and his team.”


If you have any questions or would like more information on our projects, call us on 01865 261467 or email hello@consultantconnect.org.uk.

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