NHS Area Case Study: The importance of filters in Bedfordshire

Published: 7th December 2020
Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is a highly rated acute hospital, providing medical and surgical services for over 350,000 people.

Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is a highly rated acute hospital, providing medical and surgical services for over 350,000 people. This trust acquired the name Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation NHS Trust on 1st April 2020. Prior to this acquisition, the trust was known as Luton and Dunstable University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The Trust has been using Consultant Connect’s rapid Telephone Advice & Guidance, since 2016. The service includes a GP Liaison line and Urgent Paediatric line which act as filters to stop patients [inappropriately] going to A&E in the first place, and then once patients are at the hospital there are other filters to streamline the patient journey.

The Consultant Connect service has recently expanded to include Bedfordshire practices and now covers all of the NHS Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes CCG areas, supported by out-of-area NHS consultants on the National Consultant Network (NCN). In this article, we look at how both lines have performed despite the additional pressure of COVID-19. ​

GP Liaison line

The award-winning GP Liaison line is answered by nurses who provide Advice & Guidance to Primary Care clinicians. They can provide advice on the most appropriate pathway for a patient as well as facilitate alternative routes, if applicable. Sally Shaw, Service Manager and Lead Nurse for Community Liaison leads this team. You can read our recent interview with her here:  5 minutes with… a Service Manager & Lead Nurse.

If a Primary Care clinician wants to refer a patient to hospital, they can call the GP Liaison team first. This enables the acute trust to know who is coming and why, and also ensures the patient is sent to the right place, first time. It’s a high impact, quick win.


GP Liaison line performance at a glance

Yasmeen Farooqi, Programme Commissioning Manager, NHS Luton CCG:

“Consultant Connect has been commissioned across BLMK CCGs (Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes) at different levels for some time. However, with the current COVID-19 pandemic there has been a real concern for elective care, that the capacity to deliver care and meet the demand is insufficient.


Having Consultant Connect has enabled healthcare professionals within the Primary Care and Community to manage their patients’ needs appropriately. Access to local and out-of-area NHS consultants provides real benefit to support the systems under huge pressures, ensuring right care is provided in the right place.


We continue to work with Consultant Connect and local trusts to bring more local specialist consultants on board to ensure local links and working relationships are harnessed within the boroughs.”

Urgent Paediatric Advice & Guidance

Interestingly, a similar but separate setup is in place for paediatric patients. GPs are able to use Consultant Connect to rapidly speak to paediatric consultants for urgent advice, guidance and direct referrals into the Paediatric Assessment Unit.


Urgent Paediatric Advice & Guidance performace at a glance

There’s no contractual obligation for practices to use Consultant Connect which makes the results even more impressive. We take more of a partnership approach rather than enforcing a process on Primary Care and Secondary Care. All parties see the benefits of the service, including improving collaborative working between Primary and Secondary Care.


Project expansion to cover Elective Care

Given the success of the GP Liaison line and Urgent Paediatric Advice & Guidance line in bringing Primary and Secondary Care closer together, it’s no surprise that more specialties have recently joined the service, including local elective care specialties Cardiology – Heart Failure Only, Gynaecology, Haematology, and Respiratory Medicine.

In addition, more specialties answered by the National Consultant Network (NCN) have also joined the service, including E.N.T, Gastroenterology, Renal Medicine and Urology. The NCN supports local lines where there is not enough local capacity, however the long-term goal is to provide all specialties locally.


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