The continuous roll out of a service enabling GPs to access specialist advice from colleagues working in our hospitals has been rolled out, meaning that an increasing number of patients are getting treatment more quickly and many do not need to travel to hospital for their care.
The Advice and Guidance service is a locally-developed system enabling GPs to have a secure electronic ‘conversation’ with a hospital specialist. This enables them to obtain advice for patients, without the need to refer a person for an outpatient appointment.
From March 2017 – March 2018, 8,000 ‘conversations’ took place between GPs and hospital specialists via the service, with around 250 patients per month being managed under the care of a GP following Advice and Guidance.
Dr Marwan Bukhari, Consultant Rheumatologist at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, who uses the Advice and Guidance Service to offer advice to GPs, said: “This has been a service that has enabled the quick communication between primary and secondary care and enabled decisions about patient care to be made in a timely manner with reduction in waiting and travel time. It has also provided an educational resource for the GP’s and potentially reduced the number of referrals into the service in addition to allowing those referred to have had appropriate investigations prior to being seen, speeding up the diagnostic process.”
Dr Tim Reynard, GP at Lancaster Medical Practice said: “The advice and guidance service has improved the care of many patients, sometimes entirely avoiding the need for patients to be referred to hospital.
“The service provides GPs with support from hospital specialists, which enables us to plan the next steps for our patients.
“Overall Advice and Guidance has improved the service I can offer my patients.”
Simon, a patient from Kendal who has used the Advice and Guidance system, said: “My GP Practice used advice and guidance and it was great. I was worried that I’d have to travel 21 miles and wait ages for an outpatient appointment. They managed my condition and checked up on me at home and it was managed until it cleared up – I was very happy.”
The scheme was introduced as a pilot in Garstang in 2014 as part of Better Care Together and is now available across the Morecambe Bay area. It has expanded since its launch to cover 25 specialities areas including Urology, Rheumatology, Pain Management, Respiratory Medicine and Trauma and Orthopaedics. The service will continue to expand this year with the addition of general surgery.
Better Care Together has introduced and supported new models of care across Morecambe Bay to improve the way people receive health and care services over the past four years. The programme began as a review of hospital services and grew to encompass our Bay Health and Care Partners across South Cumbria and North Lancashire.