4 NHS areas using out-of-area NHS consultants during COVID

Published: 15th September 2020
The 4 NHS areas described in this article have one thing in common – they’ve all made it radically quicker and easier for clinicians, paramedics etc. to get specialist advice despite the pandemic.

One of the biggest challenges for hospitals delivering an Advice & Guidance service is staffing it – particularly during these challenging times. Whether the requests come in from GPs by phone or in writing, most clinicians are expected to respond whilst also doing their day job. Having out-of-area NHS consultants to support local capacity can help solve staffing issues, reduce unnecessary visits to hospital, and provide Referral Assessment Services for areas.

National Consultant Network 

Most of our projects are now using the innovative National Consultant Network. Why? because it’s so flexible. Not only can it be switched on/switched off to provide short or long term relief, the 4 NHS areas below show how it’s possible to achieve different but significant results* despite COVID pressures.

Area 1 – Across ALL specialties

This NHS area’s Trust did not have sufficient consultant cover to be able to offer a full Advice & Guidance service. Instead, GPs have immediate access to NHS consultants in other areas, freeing up local capacity. The service provides access to 15 specialties.

  • Over 80% of telephone A&G calls have resulted in admissions and referrals being avoided
  • 49% of teledermatology queries resulted in referral being avoided.


Area 2 – Responding to all Paediatric dermatology requests

This NHS area could not offer a local paediatric dermatology service. The CCG decided to introduce a paediatric teledermatology service using an out of area hospital via Consultant Connect.

  • 75% of all paediatric dermatology requests in this area have been managed via out of area specialists providing advice and guidance back to the requester (e.g. GP or advanced nurse practitioners in the GP practice).


Area 3 – Giving GPs access to Mental Health specialists 

This NHS area did not have local capacity to support Mental Health medication advice lines, so they introduced Mental Health Medication advice lines, covering all ages, via out of area NHS Mental Health specialists.

  • 41% of all calls to the service have allowed the GP to assist the patient with no onward referral necessary being advised.


Area 4 – Backing up local Neurology when needed

This NHS area introduced access to neurology advice from out of area NHS consultants to help reduce unnecessary referrals to their local hospital and reduce waiting times. Over the 100 days of the trial, 78% of calls requesting neurology advice were answered and 72% of those calls resulted in hospital visits being avoided. This area now uses out of area NHS Neurology consultants as a back up to local consultants. For example, since June 50% of calls have been picked up by the NCN and 50% went to local consultants.

  • To date 80% of calls, where the outcome has been recorded, have resulted in patients avoiding an unnecessary trip to hospital.


Related Links

*Data correct as of September 2020, outcome percentages based on calls and photo-message sessions where an outcome has been reported by the GP and/or Consultant

Contact us on 01865 261467 or hello@consultantconnect.org.uk if you have any questions or would like to hear more about how the National Consultant Network can be used in your area.

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