Rheumatology team celebrated by national health award

Photo: Rheumatology team

Published: 18 September 2020

An NHS Rheumatology Team in Torbay and South Devon has been recognised for innovative work with patients who have praised the support they have received.

The specialist team, based at Torbay Hospital, run by Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, been awarded a finalist’s certificate in the renowned Health Service Journal (HSJ) awards.

The accolade, from the HSJ Value Awards, is for new group clinics which not only help patients, but also maintain safety and quality while expanding the number seen and increasing mutual support and self-management of conditions.

Consultant Rheumatologist Dr Kirsten Mackay said: “The Rheumatology Department is delighted to be finalists for the HSJ award.

“The various different group clinics were developed by the department as a long-term service re-design agenda. This was aimed at maintaining the best clinical service possible whilst managing a doubling of the numbers of rheumatology patients seen and treated.”

Patients have welcomed the group clinics with the following reviews: ‘Thank you for a very informative workshop’, ‘I have a much better understanding of who and what is on offer to help my condition’, ‘Really good service’, ‘Easy to ask questions’, ‘Very friendly and approachable’, and ‘useful opportunity for questions’.

The clinics have the following aims:

  • To start important rheumatology medications quickly
  • To educate and upskill patients with a new diagnosis, supporting them to self-manage their condition
  • To review patients in group clinics

Dr Mackay said: “The idea is to start medications quickly, but also safely, to save time, to encourage multi-disciplinary team working and maintain patient satisfaction.

“Primarily the team aimed to provide a readily accessible service for patients and provide them with enough easily accessible information enabling them to self-manage aspects of their condition.

“The groups also encouraged them to discuss, share experiences and learning and mutually support each other.”

The award recognises this approach led to a 69% reduction in nurse-led medication clinic appointments and decreased the time to starting medications from eight weeks (on some occasions) to ten days. This resulted in freeing up six hours of nursing time for telephone clinics.

At the same time patient satisfaction has been maintained at 4.7 out of 5.

Dr Mackay said that because of COVID-19, group clinics had been not been held, so a reorganised service now starts patients on rheumatology medications remotely.

She added: “This has been aided by the Rheumatology Service scripting and organising filming of ten dedicated medication videos and now, when we wish to start a rheumatology medication, we email the patient a link to the appropriate video.

“We then ask them to let us know when they are confident enough to start their medication, know how to increase the dose themselves and how often to have monitoring blood tests.”

A recent audit shows a saving of up to 30 clinic slots per week and seven hours of nursing time for other clinical work and also shows excellent patient satisfaction.

Up to 82 per cent of patients confirm they are confident to start their medication within one week. The prescription is then emailed to the outpatient pharmacy who deliver the medication within three days.


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