In many cases hospital follow-up appointments for those with long-term conditions are made when the appointment diary can accommodate them. Often they do not take into account how a patient might be feeling at that time - they may be well and not need any active care. A partnership project between the NIHR CLAHRC South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC) and the South West Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) will see researchers, clinical teams and hospital managers coming together to address this issue.
The project builds upon previous work carried out with the rheumatology department at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust. A study of Patient-Initiated Clinics (PICs) for people with rheumatoid arthritis there found that, when supported by the right information and access to the specialist team when they were needed, PICs provided a more person-centred approach that was valued by both patients and the clinical staff treating them.
An analysis of this PIC found that time and resources were important to both the health care provider and the patient. For example: patients reported issues such as have to catch multiple buses to get to the hospital for a five-minute appointment, which they saw as a waste of everyone's time unless there was something wrong with them at the time.
The team is now discussing which conditions and specialities at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust could most benefit from the PIC approach, and how PICs might be put in place that best meet the needs of the patients and services involved.
It is hoped that the outcome of this exercise in Plymouth may be translated to other hospitals around the country.
Mr Paul McArdle, Consultant Surgeon and Director of Quality at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "We want to make sure patients get the right treatment at the right time in the place that suits them best. Avoiding unnecessary appointments helps us provide care for other patients who require our services and it gives patients the choice to come when they most need to. This collaboration will help us to carefully measure the effect this project has on the care our patients receive making sure they are truly gaining from such an approach, so that as a health service we can provide better care for our patients."
Dr Vicki Goodwin, PenCLAHRC Senior Research Fellow and Project Lead, added: "This is an exciting opportunity to work with local health services to help redesign and evaluate services based on patient needs, whilst using limited resources more efficiently."
Dr Renny Leach, SW AHSN Managing Director, says: "The South West AHSN has a national role leading on the integrated care theme. Working with PenCLAHRC on a joint project that will ultimately enable the delivery of person-centred care - to the benefit of the patient and the clinician - is an important demonstration of collaboration across the sector."
You can read more about the PIC project here.