4 ways virtual clinical capacities can relieve pressures on hospital teams
In this article, we share examples of how virtual clinical capacities are supporting NHS areas across the UK to relieve pressures on local teams and improve patient care.
1. Clearing waiting list backlogs
Our consultant-led long-waiter Referral Triage service clears waiting list backlogs in bulk and/or new referrals as they come in. The service uses the expertise of out-of-area NHS consultants from our National Consultant Network (NCN).
- Area 1: >2,800 long-waiters in Dermatology cleared
- Area 2: >1,000 Cardiology referrals cleared
- Area 3: >450 Community Paediatrics referrals cleared
- Area 4: >3,000 referrals across 11 specialties cleared
For more information and outcomes, click here.
2. Virtual hospital
This NHS area opted for the virtual hospital model, whereby an out-of-area NHS consultant triages incoming Cardiology referrals and returns those safe to be treated in the community to GPs with a management plan. Where the outcome of the initial referral review is that the patient needs to be booked for diagnostics, the NHS consultant specifies which tests need to be booked. Once tests are completed, results go back to the NHS consultant for review and, where possible, diagnosis – speeding up care.
>2,000 referrals have been triaged to date, with nearly 20% identified as needing diagnostics:
- Referrals where no diagnostics were required:
- 34% were returned to Primary Care (24% with written Advice & Guidance and 10% for further information)
- 34% were booked into a routine face-to-face appointment
- 11% were marked as urgent and prioritised for urgent face-to-face appointment
- 1% were booked into a routine telephone appointment
- Referrals where diagnostics were required and reviewed via the service:
- 10% were returned to Primary Care with written Advice & Guidance
- 5% were booked into a routine face-to-face appointment
- 3% were marked as urgent and prioritised for urgent face-to-face appointment
3. Out-of-area NHS consultants delivering Advice & Guidance
Most of our Advice & Guidance (A&G) projects now use our remote NHS consultant on the NCN to support their local teams as a back up or cover specialties unavailable locally. Why? Because it’s so flexible. The service can be rapidly switched on/switched off to provide short or long-term relief.
- Area 1: did not have sufficient local consultant cover to be able to offer a full A&G service. Instead, Primary Care clinicians have immediate access to NCN consultants in 16 specialties, freeing up local capacity.
- Area 2: could not offer a local Paediatric dermatology service. They introduced a Paediatric teledermatology service using an out-of-area hospital via Consultant Connect.
- Area 3: did not have the local capacity to support Adult Mental Health and Mental Health Medication advice lines, so they introduced two Mental Health advice lines via out-of-area NHS Mental Health specialists.
- Area 4: uses out-of-area NHS Neurology consultants as a backup to local consultants. Currently, 80% of calls are picked up by the NCN, and 20% go to local consultants.
4. ‘Overnight’ GP advice for virtual wards
If virtual ward patients’ conditions change, they would normally be brought back to hospital, even if, in many cases, they should have been able to remain at home.
The Telegraph reported recently that despite the aim of virtual wards being to relieve pressures on A&E departments, they could end up creating extra NHS demand as some are only staffed for 12 hours a day.
Nurses that are ‘remote carers’ for virtual ward patients at night and/or patients who are on a virtual ward themselves can now have access to immediate telephone advice from ‘overnight’ GPs via Consultant Connect. Calls via this service are answered within seconds, and the advice provided by the ‘overnight’ GP often results in the patient not needing to come back to hospital.
An NHS area recently introduced telephone access to ‘overnight’ GPs via Consultant Connect for one of their virtual wards. Night nurses can call via the service for advice, with 71% of these calls to date resulting in the patient remaining on the virtual ward and not needing to come back to hospital.
For more information, get in touch:
If you have any questions or would like to find out how virtual clinical capacities can help your area, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01865 261 467 or fill in the short form below to request a call back from the team: