Helping GPs if they can’t refer patients to hospital

Published: 8th April 2020
Many hospitals have, quite understandably, scaled back or stopped routine activity to deal with the COVID crisis. This article explains how the Consultant Connect service can be used to give GPs another option if they can’t refer to hospital.

Many hospitals have, quite understandably, scaled back or stopped routine activity to deal with the COVID crisis. This article explains how the Consultant Connect service can be used to give GPs another option if they can’t refer to hospital. The service can now be launched within a week, so it has an immediate impact on both patients and waiting lists.

 

Executive Summary

  •  If a GP cannot refer a patient, speaking directly with a specialist on the phone will avoid the need for a referral / admission in over two thirds of calls.
  •  Telephone advice can be offered by local consultants who are self-isolating.
  •  Teledermatology, initiated either by the GP or the patient, reduces 2WW appointments and routine referrals.
  •  If your local provider is unable to answer all its calls or Telederm requests, there is support available from NHS consultants outside your area.


1. Giving GPs the option of speaking with a specialty consultant

  • Giving GPs access to telephone advice through Consultant Connect as well as giving them access to written advice on e-RS will result in a much greater uptake of pre-referral advice.
  • Before COVID emerged our data showed that 66% of calls to Consultant Connect resulted in the patient avoiding a trip to hospital. Through a conversation with a consultant, in 66% of cases a calling GP was able to change a patient’s medication, order diagnostics and / or implement a treatment plan outside of hospital.
  • With many routine specialties now closed until the COVID crisis has passed, we expect the 66% figure to rise as GPs and consultants look for an alternative to a long wait for hospital. We also expect that the service will be used to determine whether patients are urgent or emergency candidates for treatment sooner. 
  • Local consultants who are self-isolating are ideal candidates to answer GP phone calls.
  • If your GP is not able to refer a patient to hospital, access to telephone advice will help them treat the patient out of hospital.

 

2. Using photo-messaging for dermatology, ophthalmology, ECG interpretation

GPs using our safe clinical photography service know that sharing photos means that only patients who need to go to hospital will go:

  •  Over a third of 2WW dermatology appointments are discharged before appointment
  •  Over 70% of non-2WW advice queries avoid the patient going to hospital
  • Our new file-upload feature means also that photos taken by patients can be shared with consultants (”patient-initiated dermatology”). Optometrists can share eye scans with ophthalmologists and GPs can share ECGs with cardiologists.
  • Photo-messaging keeps patients out of hospital and releases clinical capacity.

 

3. Using the National Consultant Network

  • We can now offer “locum” consultants to take calls and answer photo messages in specialties where you need backup or are not able to launch a local service. All hold substantive NHS consultant posts and many are working on other Consultant Connect projects.
  • The phone answer rate of the National Consultant Network is over 90% first time and over 70% of calls result in the patient avoiding an unnecessary trip to hospital. For dermatology photo-messages, the average answer time is under 3 hours and over 70% of photos result in the patient being treated out of hospital.
  • The service can be switched on and off with just 48 hours notice, so this is a handy tool to deal with planned and unplanned staff shortages.

 

Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any of the above – we wish you well in this challenging time and hope to be able to help at some point. Download our pdf here: Enhanced Advice & Guidance .

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