Maxima Spanakis is the Admin Team Lead at the Luton and Dunstable Rheumatology department for Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
In November 2021, an improved Rheumatology Nurse-led advice line utilising Consultant Connect was launched at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust. The clinical advice line enables patients to access their specialist team to support them with their condition and medication. Calls are answered by administrative assistants Monday-Friday, between 9am-12noon. Since the launch, over 4,000 calls have been answered by the admin team.
Maxima tell us about introducing PIFU pathways via Consultant Connect…
1. When did you put Patient Initiated Follow Up (PIFU) in place at your Trust/Hospital and for which specialty?
“We set up PIFU many years ago via Nurse Advice Line for Rheumatology.”
2. How did you manage your helplines before introducing PIFU via Consultant Connect? What led you to consider Consultant Connect?
“Before moving the service to Consultant Connect, patients would have to call in and leave a voice message explaining their problem. The admin team would then have some time to listen to all the messages, call the patients back and action the queries.”
3. What structures /processes/staffing did you need to set up to support the PIFU service?
“We already had two telephone nurse clinics running each afternoon to call patients with clinical, medication or flare related queries, and protected flare slots in the Doctor’s clinics for patients to be booked into. Three admin colleagues had time each morning to triage the queries coming in and book them in for nurse call back if necessary.”
4. Who did you involve in discussions, and did they have any concerns that you had to overcome?
“We involved the lead nurse and the nursing admin support team. There were concerns that it would be more demanding to deal with the call queries live rather than via voice message.”
5. How did you manage to get buy-in from the specialty team?
“The new process seemed better and more efficient for time management and once we tried it, everybody could see it was better.”
6. What has the impact been since moving access to the service to Consultant Connect?
“It’s been a massive improvement as now not only do calls get answered live, but we also have a method to collect and collate data removing the need to manually count each call and the outcomes of the call etc.
The patients do like being able to speak to somebody when they call.”
7. How has the service impacted staff wellbeing and patient care?
“It has been very beneficial for staff experience as the team members know that once the phone lines shut in the morning, they can move on to other tasks as opposed to potentially be listening to many messages for indefinite periods of time. It is nicer for patients to speak to somebody and get an answer to their query rather than having to leave a message and have uncertainty as to whether their message and query will be actioned.”
8. What recommendations would give to other NHS areas currently evaluating moving their PIFU service to Consultant Connect?
“It is a great service to use and there is a lot of support from the Consultant Connect team! They support us with data collation etc and are always willing to work with you to make your ideas happen and fine tune the service to meet your needs.”
9. How are you performing against the NHS operational target of moving or discharging 5% of outpatient attendances to PIFU pathways by March 2023?
“We are working towards it, although we have only recently formally implemented PIFU pathways so not that many patients have been identified as appropriate thus far. The patients who have been doing a PIFU model via our nurse advice line historically (and currently) were/are not PIFU identified patients necessarily although it is still a form of patient initiated follow up.”
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