Clinicians in Somerset ICB have access to Enhanced Telephone Advice & Guidance provided by Consultant Connect, connecting them to specialists at the touch of a button. We spoke with Drs Weaver and Smith, GPs in Somerset, to find out how the utilisation of Consultant Connect assists them in their everyday roles. Clinicians in Somerset also have access to the IG-secure clinical photography feature, PhotoSAF, to monitor patient conditions and attach them to referrals. Both services are free to users as they are commissioned by the ICB.
‘This is a fantastic service and has improved my ability to get specialist advice quickly and securely. I would highly recommend it to all Primary Care clinicians. The app provides useful usage data for users and practices, allowing you to track which services you have utilised in the past, which is so helpful.’
– Dr Weaver.
‘It is a direct way to contact a specialist to seek advice in patient cases where I’m not sure whether to refer or admit the patient.’
– Dr Smith.
How did you seek Advice & Guidance before having access to Consultant Connect?
‘Previously, I would have called through the hospital switchboard which can sometimes be frustrating and often time-consuming. In contrast, Consultant Connect allows me to contact a specialist directly. I can speak to someone straight away with the patient still present so I can relay any advice to them. Due to the speed of the service, I can usually do this all within a normal 10-minute consultation.’
– Dr Weaver.
‘The app makes it a very quick and easy service to use, and it often facilitates investigations that can avoid lengthy delays for a patient, when we would otherwise have referred them or written to a consultant for advice.’
– Dr Smith.
‘I recently saw a patient who had persistent symptoms of Benign Paroxysmal Vertigo (BBPV). I had already performed three Epley manoeuvres, which led to a partial improvement in the patient’s presentation, and I was beginning to consider a referral to ENT. However, I was aware that if the patient was referred, they would most likely wait months before an initial appointment. I used Telephone Advice & Guidance via Consultant Connect to obtain specialist advice regarding the patient’s condition.
‘I was connected to a very helpful ENT consultant on the National Consultant Network. The out-of-area NHS consultant gave me recommendations and advice on what to try next before considering a hospital referral. The consultant explained that the patient should try home exercises (Brandt-Daroff) regularly for four weeks.
‘The patient left the consultation with more confidence to try home remedies and was more motivated to persist with these. They felt reassured with the care plan in place, they received the right care efficiently, and they avoided a referral and a long wait for a hospital appointment.
‘I learned something that would help future management of cases like this, whilst also helping a patient avoid a long wait and unnecessary trip to hospital. I find that the service helps build relationships with specialists and made me feel more confident with the decisions made.’
‘I saw a 55-year-old patient who had recent onset acute lower back pain. During the telephone consultation, I identified red flags in their history which suggested the patient may have Cauda Equina Syndrome and needed an urgent MRI scan. I contacted the Spinal Team via Consultant Connect and was instantly connected with a consultant orthopaedic spinal surgeon. He agreed that the patient required an urgent MRI of their spine and gave me advice on how best to arrange this via our local A&E department.
‘I arranged admission of the patient to A&E with a referral letter which included the details of the consultant’s advice I received. The patient had an MRI scan which fortunately showed only a slipped disc, excluding Cauda Equina Syndrome. The patient was discharged from A&E later the same day with analgesia.
‘I followed up the patient afterwards, and they were very grateful for how quickly their problem had been assessed and managed, and this was only made possible with the help of Consultant Connect.’