Our ‘Gastronaught’ project was set up to reduce delays for those gastroenterology patients facing particularly long wait times due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It achieved that and more with our team reviewing almost three times as many patients as planned, slashing waiting times by five weeks, and finding a new way of working.
Service Manager Allison Wood said: “This project was a huge team effort which took weeks of planning after our divisional director challenged us to review 250 patients facing long waits and get them the treatment they needed.
“Everyone played a role, and they did it so well we actually ended up reviewing 636 patients! Different members of the team played their part whether it was in the planning stages, finding additional capacity, filling in for colleagues released to be part of Gastronaught, or reviewing patients with our doctors. Now we’ve seen the benefits, I can’t imagine working any other way.”
A key part of the project was members of clerical staff sitting with our consultants to triage patients – where they found 51 per cent didn’t need an appointment.
Sarah-Jane Moore, one of the support managers helping to triage patients, said: “Once our doctors had the tools and know-how to access the system and review patients, they really enjoyed it and didn’t stop, which was why we triaged almost triple the number of patients we set out to.
“From this, we found only 49 per cent needed to be seen in our outpatient clinic. Some needed other services which we could refer them to directly, others we were able to send straight for tests or offer advice. This meant 51 per cent of our referrals didn’t need to sit on a waiting list for several weeks, and the 308 patients who did need to be seen, could have their appointment a lot quicker.”
Previously, patients referred to our gastro team were all given appointments, which due to the pandemic, some were waiting over three months for. Now our doctors have smartcards to access the right systems, and are confident using them, all referrals can be triaged by a consultant before being offered an appointment. This has already seen waits reduce to seven weeks, which is expected to come down further as the new way of working continues to pay dividends.
Prem Premchand, gastroenterology consultant, worked alongside Sarah-Jane to review patients. He said: “Once I had access to the patient list and knew what I was doing, I spent a weekend reviewing 90 patients by myself! I found I enjoyed it.
“The difference it has made to our waiting lists shows it was really worth the effort. It’s a very good system and will help to avoid unnecessary delays. It will make a big difference to our patients.”
Not only did the project slash waiting times, it also identified a small number of patients who had been referred on a routine pathway, when they actually they needed much more urgent attention. This meant we could ensure these patients were seen within two weeks.
Allison added: “I’m so proud of what the team managed to achieve for our patients, especially as this was all done on top of their normal day jobs.”
Pictured top are (l-r): Allison, department manager James Biggs, Sarah-Jane, Prem, and Divisional Director of Nursing for Surgery, Julie Wright.