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Outpatient Transformation Conference: 4 Key Learning Points

The Covid-19 outbreak has provided a springboard for innovation and technology advancements across the NHS Estate, from electronic records and referrals to devices that patients can wear to help to track their health. Technology is helping transform the way hospitals and community services care for patients.

The number of outpatient visits in England has doubled to 94 million in the past decade; 20% of potential appointments are cancelled or reported as did not attend, costs have spiraled to £8 billion per year and appointments generate 4,700 million kg of carbon emissions.

Following the Covid outbreak, the NHS Long Term Plan ambition to avoid unnecessary face to face outpatient attendances has become an urgent imperative, these targets include:

- Removing the need for up to a third of hospital outpatient attendances a year by 2023/24

- Avoiding up to £1.1bn of additional expenditure.

- And ensuring all patients can access digital outpatient care.

Here’s 4 key learnings from the Outpatient Transformation Conference and the opportunities to embrace now for a better future.

Personalised Outpatients

Chris McAuley, Project Manager at NHS Benchmarking Network, reported that DNA rates reduced during the pandemic but have recently increased, which may be due to more face-to-face appointments taking place. However, the target is to reduce the number of Outpatients follow-ups by 25-50%.

In response to this Hugh McCaughey, National Director of Improvement at NHS England and NHS Improvement, outlined six key areas of transformation that can personalize the outpatient department to create a more efficient service and provide better patient satisfaction. This includes, Pathway Standardisation, PIFU, Specialist Advice, Effective Discharge, Remote Monitoring, and Community Models.

It’s also clear there is a big opportunity for video consultations, as Chris McAuley, Project Manager at NHS Benchmarking Network, also stated that telephone consultations still account for the majority of remote consultations (85% – 95% for the duration of the pandemic). Video consultations provide a more personal interaction with patients that resemble a face-to-face appointment and clinicians can pick up on non-verbal ques that isn’t possible with telephone, therefore increasing the effectiveness and patient satisfaction with virtual consultations.

Optimising The Pathway

Lisa Williams, Assistant Director of Transformation & Partnerships at Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, shared her experiences and the need for end-to-end pathway development starting with the referral. She explained this requires access to a mix of specialist advice, virtual consultations, remote monitoring & PIFU, which needs to be built into all pathways to make it an effective pathway that is optimized for both clinicians and patients.

Hugh McCaughey, National Director of Improvement at NHS England and NHS Improvement, also outlined the need for Improved alignment of diagnostics with the outpatient pathway, with digital tools the key to enabling this transformation and ensuring safe, efficient and responsive care.

Empowerment For Change

Hugh McCaughey, National Director of Improvement at NHS England and NHS Improvement, rightly explained how empowerment lies at the heart of the transformation and personalisation of outpatient care. We must include everyone involved from as early as possible and ensure we focus on those champions for change who will make the programme effective for the long term. It requires user engagement and evidence that is clear. Empowering people improves outcomes and experience, reducing costs to both the service and the patient.

Focus On What Matters

Lisa Williams, Assistant Director of Transformation & Partnerships, Calderdale & Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, highlighted the need of looking at specialties with high waiting lists backlogs to ensure we target what has the maximum opportunity to ensure maximum impact. This requires some focus to measure results but will ultimately lead to the backlog decreasing at a faster rate, rather than trying to do everything at once. It’s about going further & faster.

Spacestor Healthcare were are proud sponsor of the event, and were pleased to share our insights on how we have worked with a number of NHS Trusts on implementing modular acoustic booths for virtual consultations, to transform real estate and patient care.

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