We wrote recently about the “new normal” in healthcare. In our view, technologies which help patients avoid physical appointments are here to stay. Here’s how Advice and Guidance changed to become a central part of the new landscape:
Consultant Connect, which allows GPs to get immediate advice from specialists, often enables patients to avoid an unnecessary trip to hospital, so we are one of these technologies. It became clear in February that COVID was going to have a large impact on us. Here’s what we saw…
1. GPs started using Consultant Connect more
By March, the number of calls being placed through Consultant Connect were double the numbers placed at the end of January. To put this into context, in a 6-week period usage grew by the same amount as it had in the previous five years. It has continued to grow through April, May and June. Some areas saw dramatic increases. For example, one area in the Midlands which was receiving about 40 calls per week has seen GPs placing 200 calls a week as they look to find alternatives to sending patients to hospital.
2. More patients avoided a trip to hospital
In “normal” times, 66% of calls to Consultant Connect nationally would result in the patient avoiding a trip to hospital. Since March, this figure is now over 70%. In areas that have been particularly hard-hit by COVID, over 80% of calls have been resulting in the patient avoiding hospital, as GPs and specialists worked especially hard to treat patients in the community.
3. Hospitals expanded what they offer through Consultant Connect
Many hospitals that were using Consultant Connect for a few specialties have expanded what they offer, some of them quite drastically. A popular addition to local services has been a COVID / Acute Medicine line. Specialties impacted by COVID such as Diabetes / Endocrinology, Cardiology and Respiratory Medicine have also proved popular.
4. Local specialist teams are being backed up by National consultants
Local advice from a local clinician is always the best option, but, if a local clinician is not available, advice from an out-of-area specialist is the next best option. Over 70% of calls to National clinicians result in the patient avoiding hospital, which is the quickest and best care for the patient. Where hospital is necessary, although non-local clinicians cannot help with navigation on local pathways, they do always prompt GPs to consider local options (eg. “If there is a community clinic for …”), making the most of the GP’s pathway knowledge.
5. New projects started more quickly
During this period we have seen records broken for new projects. Swansea Bay, the first of our Welsh Health Board rollouts, went live on Friday 10th April from an instruction to proceed 72 hours earlier. Two further projects in neighbouring areas of London experienced some of the fastest uptake by GPs for telephone calls and dermatology photo-messaging that we have ever seen. A number of other projects rolled out and gripped in weeks, rather than months. It’s a new benchmark that has been made possible by new ways of working.
It’s been an extraordinary period for the NHS, we are grateful that we have had an opportunity to be part of its response to the challenge. It’s still the case that we’re seeing or doing something new every week, please get in touch if you want a sounding board for your ideas. We hosted a free webinar on this topic – please read below or click here to watch the webinar recording.
WEBINAR RECORDING AVAILABLE – NHS Advice & Guidance for the “new normal”
During this webinar, clinical and management colleagues at North Central London CCG discussed their high-impact projects in Enfield. Despite being launched in the middle of the Pandemic, their projects have achieved high GP usage and better outcomes for patients in an extremely short timeframe. Their insights into clinician engagement and communications will help you replicate their successes. Click here to access the webinar recording.