Newsletter - August 2016 - Connecting Professionals

Listening to the concerns of GPs and adding a service which helps answer an increasing problem: how to connect GPs with consultant colleagues to give access to real-time advice, and reduce the level of GP to hospital referrals.

By Dr Simon Woodworth, of Beech House Medical Practice, Stockport.

Stockport Together vanguard is a partnership between Stockport’s health and care organisations to join up services so that they work seamlessly together. It is one of 14 multispecialty community providers (MCP) vanguards for the new care models programme that are developing new ways to deliver a sustainable and improved quality of personalised care.

As part of this work, NHS England recently published details of the (MCP) emerging care model and contract framework – setting out what good looks like. The publication is full of great examples of where the care model is already helping to reduce the impact of rising demand on GPs and practices and Stockport Together is one such case.

Following feedback from GP colleagues, we introduced a service in Stockport which has greatly improved the access we have across the borough to same-day, real-time specialist advice and guidance from hospital consultants.

Consultant Connect, a dedicated telephony system, was introduced in February. Since then my GP colleagues and I can get instant treatment advice during patient appointments from a specialist at our local hospital to check whether a referral is necessary.

While reaching hospital consultants by phone has traditionally been a challenge for GPs in Stockport, the new single number connects to a ‘rota’ of consultants and if the first is unavailable, the system loops to the mobile phone of the next specialist.

So far, the system has prevented hospital referrals in 70 per cent of recorded cases since launching for haematology (the diagnosis and treatment of blood disorders) and endocrinology (the treatment of hormone imbalances) enquiries in February. It has since been extended to include paediatrics and cardiology, and there are plans to add further specialties in coming months.

One of the patients to benefit is Jean Hamilton, 77, from Romiley in Stockport. Mrs Hamilton had been suffering for low blood pressure which had led to two visits to A&E, including following an incident where she collapsed and hit her head.

Usually a patient like Mrs Hamilton, would have been have referred to the hospital, which would have led to a letter and an appointment 3-4 weeks later. Instead, I called Consultant Connect and within 25 seconds I was through to consultant endocrinologist, Dr Richard Bell.

Between the two of us, we agreed that Mrs Hamilton’s medication would be adjusted and blood tests would be carried out, with a plan for me to call Dr Bell again if I needed after getting the test results.

In this case, and others, the greatest value of Consultant Connect for me has been the speed – it means that I’m able to give my patients more tailored advice quickly, to start addressing their symptoms straightaway.

If I had referred Mrs Hamilton, she would have needed to attend the hospital for an appointment, with the inconvenience of travelling to a further appointment and finding parking. Following this, the consultant may have written back suggesting the same measures. Instead, with Consultant Connect, it all happened during one appointment in primary care.

Dr Richard Bell, endocrinology consultant, agrees: “Consultant Connect makes it very easy to communicate with GPs and improve patient care while cutting out pointless backwards and forwards letters and inappropriate patient appointments.

“As a consultant, it is helpful in making sure we can stay focussed on using our time to see the most appropriate people. Many patients do not need a physical hospital appointment but their GP may need a consultant opinion about their care.”


Biography

Dr Simon Woodworth is a GP at Stockport’s Beech House Medical Practice and prior to that he was based at Chadfield Medical Practice since 2006. In addition to his GP role, he is involved with teaching medical students and has a role in commissioning with Stockport CCG.

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