Keeping patients out of hospital this winter

Keeping patients out of hospital this winter - Consultant ConnectWinter is a challenging time for NHS; operational resilience plans need to be wide-ranging and all-encompassing. At Consultant Connect, we understand the importance of keeping patients out of hospital, ensuring that only those who require face-to-face appointments attend.

Area Case Study | COPD Pathway in Tayside - Consultant Connect

Stopping unnecessary patient conveyances

Considerable amounts of ambulance clinicians’ time are spent waiting in A&E to conduct patient handovers. To maximise resources, time and expertise, the ideal service would enable ambulance clinicians to speak to specialists to work together to decide the best patient pathway.

For example, Same Day Emergency Care (SDEC) Advice & Guidance allows ambulance clinicians to rapidly speak to specialists for advice, bypassing switchboard and bleep waits. This allows ambulance staff to discuss whether A&E is the most appropriate destination for the patient in a matter of minutes. All calls and outcomes are recorded for IG purposes.

As of August 2022, Advice & Guidance via Consultant Connect has been available in 9 ambulance trusts across the UK, and current data shows that 36% of calls, with reported outcomes, from ambulance staff avoid unnecessary patient conveyances.

Reducing unnecessary A&E attendances

Our proven telephone and photo-messaging services ensure care can be kept in the community when it is safe to do so. It also means that when patients need to be seen more urgently, their care can be prioritised.

An outstanding example of this in practice is that of the GP Liaison line in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes ICB. The award winning nurse-led line has been acting as a filter 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 nurses provide Advice & Guidance to Primary Care clinicians on the most appropriate pathway for a patient as well as facilitate alternative routes, if applicable. Over 9,400 calls have been placed to the GP Liaison Line between January and December 2022 with 749 being given advice on alternative treatment options or referred to a community service. 

NHSX highlights Consultant Connect impact on elective recovery - Consultant Connect
Keeping patients out of hospital this winter - Consultant Connect

Reducing your RTT waiting times

It’s well known that triaging all incoming referrals ensures that patients are placed on the correct pathways the first time. However, resourcing this approach can be difficult, especially if areas are also working through backlogs of referrals.

Our switch-on/switch-off Referral Triage model allows the service to be increased to cover more specialties, reduced, or turned off completely with 72 hours’ notice, as your local capacities change.

The triage work results in a clinically validated and prioritised waiting list and ensures patients are seen in the place most suitable for their care.

Available in over 17 NHS specialties, more than 25,000 referral cases have been reviewed to date, with 17% of those cases returning to GPs in Primary Care with detailed Advice & Guidance.

Utilising virtual capacities for staffing issues

Staff who need to self-isolate or work from home can continue to contribute to patient care and reduce pressure by using Consultant Connect. There are various ways in which we can help with capacity issues, including our ‘virtual’ team of NHS consultants who can back up your staff when needed via our switch on/switch off service.

Advice & Guidance from home

Consultant Connect allows specialists who are self-isolating or working from home to continue to answer calls and messages for advice. Whether specialists are at work or home, they can still be part of the call answering rota to provide timely Advice & Guidance. Specialists’ phone numbers are never disclosed and if they are unavailable to take a call, the service will move on to the next specialist on the rota.

'Virtual' NHS Consultant back-up

Our National Consultant Network (NCN) comprises out-of-area NHS consultants who can support specialist teams or provide locally unavailable specialties. This flexible service can be switched on/off in as little as 24-48 hours to provide short or long-term relief to local specialists.

The NCN is a network of hundreds of NHS consultants who can provide 22 unique specialties and is currently utilised in 44 hospitals across the UK.

Virtual Consultations

Patient Connect is an IG-secure system which enables clinicians to easily set up and deliver telephone follow-up consultations, whether they are working from the hospital or home. They simply set up the call, speak to the patient and select a call outcome. All calls, including answerphone messages, are recorded and tracked.

This service was set up in NHS Lanarkshire in December 2020 as a solution to challenges within the Flow Navigation Centre. As of May 2022, the service saw approximately 4,000 calls to patients from clinicians, with 30% of these calls resulting in patients avoiding emergency departments.

Home - Consultant Connect

Improving patient flow/discharge

One of the best ways of improving patient flow within hospitals is by preventing hospital visits for patients who don’t require them. This is easier said than done when patients need follow-up appointments.

Our Patient-Initiated Follow-Up Service (PIFU) reduces unnecessary visits to hospitals, patient waiting times and releases the clinical teams to see patients in a more timely manner. PIFU is an IG-secure service that enables patients to initiate a consultation with a specialist. This is the simplest and most effective way of delivering follow-up consultations where the clinician does not need to see the patient.

PIFU was implemented by a Neurology team in NHS Bedfordshire to streamline the process of patients accessing medical advice. As of August 2022, only 25% of calls to the PIFU line resulted in an admission/appointment.

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