Hundreds of patients benefit from heart-scan push

To support the recovery of the transthoracic echocardiography waiting list following the Covid-19 pandemic, the Lancashire and South Cumbria Cardiac Network, in collaboration with the Community Diagnostic Centre (CDC) team, ran a system wide ‘echo-thon’ earlier this year, with the aim of delivering an additional 800 echocardiographs over eight weekends.

Working with the Strategic Resourcing Lead they developed a pathway to enable specialised staff to deliver additional activity at any site using a Digital Staff Passport. This enabled the voluntary movement of staff to other trusts quickly and safely and removed the duplication of additional pre-employment checks which is not achievable when using the paper-based process. Staff performing this activity were assessed competent by the national body and as a requirement for participation in the project, held current certification.

Acute Trusts across the area had looked to increase their ECHO capacity, with varying degrees of success and expense. To tackle the backlog the cardiac network identified the potential for cross site working and engaged all qualified cardiac sonographers, to work collaboratively as a network, to ease the current pressures on individual trusts and share the burden.

To deliver this one-off project, the Cardiac Clinical Network engaged with clinical service leads across all Trusts in the area to discuss current waits, availability of equipment and rooms. All sites already used similar imaging equipment and the same reporting and image storage system. An induction package was developed to support the project, ultimately supporting the movement of both staff and patients.

A total of 747 patients attended for their echo, with an average DNA rate of 6.6%.

The project boosted staff morale, enabling cross Trust networking of staff and relationship building. The project made the staff feel valued and part of supporting the wider system.

Alexandra Severns, cardiac network programme manager for Lancashire and South Cumbria Health and Care Partnership, said:

“This is a great initiative that took 12 per cent of people off our waiting list in just two months and reassured those who have been waiting longer than necessary for a scan.”

Keith Pearce, Clinical Lead for Diagnostics for the National Cardiac Pathways Improvement Programme (CPIP) said, “I’d like to recognise this massive effort, this is very impressive with 700 patients no longer waiting for diagnostics and this was achieved at an average pace of 100 patients per weekend additional activity, this is a fantastic piece of work and clearly demonstrates what can be achieved by engaging the wider network cardiac physiology workforce. It’s also a great example system level collaboration with the workforce, diagnostics and cardiac team delivering an innovative system level solution”