Clinicians in Derby and Derbyshire ICB have had access to Enhanced Advice & Guidance via Consultant Connect since July 2020, connecting them with specialists for rapid input. We spoke with Alex Howard, Optometrist at Specsavers Opticians in Chesterfield, and Dr Diane Fitzsimons, GP at Credas Medical Centre, to find out how having access to this service benefits clinicians across a multitude of services.
What are the key benefits of using Consultant Connect?
‘Since using the service, we get fast and helpful responses from our local ophthalmology department regarding patients with possible pathology. This has helped us to decide which patients we do and don’t need to refer. Receiving feedback via this service not only benefits the patient in front of you but also helps you to learn for similar cases in the future. For example, I now feel much more confident about whether a case of vitreomacular traction/lamellar hole picked up by OCT will need to be referred to HES, and, as a result, I also feel more confident to decide which patients I can safely monitor within the practice. It has also been very useful for communicating about patients already under Secondary Care. This has helped build relationships between community optometry and our local HES department.’
– Alex Howard, Optometrist.
‘The service enables rapid access to specialist advice without waiting for switchboard to locate an available specialist. It is really simple and effective to get advice to prevent a referral or admission.’
– Dr Diane Fitzsimons, GP.
Have you found it easy to use?
‘It’s extremely easy to use. Having the app on my phone means I can send queries quickly during the working day, and I’m notified as soon as I receive a response. I love that I can send images at the click of a button and that the IG element is all taken care of; the images aren’t stored on my phone, so I don’t have to worry about that. It’s intuitive – we didn’t need any training. If you can use your phone to send messages, you can easily use Consultant Connect!’
– Alex Howard.
What do you see as the main benefits for patients?
‘Patients definitely value the service. We probably underestimate how worrying it is for a patient to be waiting for a routine referral, and this is particularly true at present because of the combination of increased health anxiety within the general population and longer waiting times. The fact that I can get clinical advice so quickly is invaluable.’
– Alex Howard.
Dr Diane Fitzsimons
‘I saw a young patient suffering from severe constipation and was very uncomfortable. I used Telephone Advice & Guidance to call a local paediatric consultant who suggested a disimpaction regime and further management plan if needed.
Furthermore, I was able to put a back-up plan in place should the disimpaction not work, meaning the patient and their parent could feel reassured that the issue would be resolved.’
‘I recently saw an asymptomatic lady with a small macular hole but good vision. In the past, I might have referred her for a routine opinion, and she might have waited a few months to be seen in HES, worrying in the meantime. In this event, I was able to call her back later that same day to tell her the ophthalmologist had seen the scan and was happy for us to perform another OCT in the community in 6 months’ time unless she noticed any visual change – a much better outcome for everyone involved.’
Do you have any feedback about the information received regarding the service and how to make the most of it?
‘Our Account Manager at Consultant Connect is brilliant – she’s very responsive and is always there to provide any help we’ve needed. Before the service started, we had a demo webinar, which allowed practitioners (HES and optometrists) to see clearly how the app would work from both sides. After we saw that, I think we were all really eager to get started!’
– Alex Howard.