NHS teams across the region are continuing to work hard to bring down waiting lists that built up during the Covid-19 pandemic. Progress is being made and there have made significant improvements in the waiting list position thanks to the phenomenal efforts of our NHS teams. Latest published data shows that outpatient activity continues to increase; in August this year, there were 280,000 out-patient appointments, which is 4% higher compared to January this year.
Teams are looking at how they can transform outpatient services, in order to increase capacity, tackle the patient backlog and make improvements to quality and patient experience through adoption of technology and new ways of working.
Super September was the first initiative in a broader series of national initiatives under the heading of ‘Action on Outpatients’, where Trusts and systems have focused on boosting improvements to how outpatient services are delivered, along with adoption of new and innovative ways to support elective recovery.
Our three North West systems have also used Super September as an opportunity to focus on particular areas and then share learning to support further roll-out of improvements.
The transformation of outpatient services is a key part of the Greater Manchester Elective Recovery and Reform Strategy. Three hospital Trusts are taking part in ‘Super September’ with the aim of sharing learning from these initiatives with other, ensuring any successes are rolled out to help manage waiting lists backlogs in the region.
Salford Care Organisation, part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, is increasing capacity to offer more first outpatient appointments in the following specialties: Urology, General and Colorectal Surgery, Medicine, Ophthalmology, Rheumatology, Spine.
Bolton NHS Foundation Trust is looking at first outpatient appointments and follow up appointments. They are piloting two initiatives to help manage new referrals into the Trust. The first is a Chatbot system, which supports communication with patients to ensure the waiting list is accurate and up to date and a virtual activity platform in Dermatology. In terms of follow up appointments, they are also introducing Patient Initiated Follow Up (PIFU) pathways in the following specialties: Cardiology, Respiratory, General Surgery and Bladder and Bowel services.
Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust are planning to increase their capacity to be able to see people whose follow up appointments are overdue.
Hospital Trusts and patients on waiting lists in Lancashire and South Cumbria are also benefitting from an innovative artificial intelligence service that allows patients to let their hospital know their current health status.
Chatbot is an automated call system, which guides patients through a series of questions designed by NHS consultants and healthcare experts. This enables patients to let NHS Trusts know if their condition has worsened and possibly, speed up their treatment, or if they no longer require treatment.
Due to the success of the roll-out with partner hospitals, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals adopted the Chatbot system as part of Super September. So far, 1,400 waiting list patients have received an automated call asking them about their health condition. 80 per cent of patients responded to either the automated call, or a follow-up call from a member of staff, with 7 per cent of all patients indicated that they were able to leave the waiting list, helping to ensure that waiting lists are up to date so our hospitals can focus on those patients who require treatment and freeing up NHS hospital staff for other essential duties. The initiative will continue through to December with a further 3,600 patients being contacted.
The Cheshire and Mersey system has focused on three specific areas. The first is to bring forward the roll-out of a glaucoma community-follow-up pilot. This aims to free up capacity in acute settings, which can then be re-directed. The second aims to expand the current Patient Initiated Follow Up (PIFU) offering to include a priority focus on dermatology conditions. Again, this will begin a process of moving suitable patients onto PIFU pathways and ensure appointment slots are used by the most urgent patients. The third area focusses on ENT patients at Countess of Chester hospital, who had been waiting for between 50-60 weeks. Consultant Connect, who provide a telemedicine service, were engaged to re-triage patients, to identify those to be prioritised for urgent appointment, as well as those potentially suitable to be returned to referrer with advice or directed to another service.
All three systems link into the North West Regional Outpatients Programme Group, which provides an opportunity to share ideas, good practice and discuss challenges.