Creating the Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine Service in the West Midlands –The Inaugural lecture of the Birmingham Students Medical Leadership Society
Many thanks to everyone who attended the Birmingham Students Medical Leadership Society’s first ever lecture on November 7th 2013. The committee was extraordinarily pleased with the turn out and hope to see you all at our next lectures. We must also say a big thank you to Dr Nicholas Crombie for being our Inaugural speaker, he gave a fantastic lecture and we have received a number of rave reviews and requests for a follow up lecture next year! Dr Crombie’s talk focussed on three main areas: 1) A short personal history focussing on why and how Dr Crombie became head of one of the UK’s best Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine (PHEM) services and the first post-graduate dean in charge of PHEM trainees. 2) The majority of the lecture was a case history on the behind the scenes activity that was required to create the West Midlands Pre-Hospital Network and training program. In summary, over a decade ago it was realised that the UK was lagging behind other developed nations in our Emergency Medicine and Trauma service provisions. There were a number of disjointed and only partially trained services in place for major incidents. The British government and a number of leading health think-tanks put forward proposals for creating a modern effective service. Dr Crombie was a senior doctor in the West Midlands air ambulance charity, the BASICS program and had worked with the West Midlands Ambulance service. Dr Crombie was able to collect a team of senior doctors, nurses, paramedics and managers from all of the emergency medicine services and charities within the West Midlands together. This collaboration of ambulance service, charities, BASIC teams, CARE team and NHS Trusts was novel to the UK. The collaboration was able to tender for central government and was the first such scheme in the UK to be approved. Since the scheme’s approval 5 major trauma units have been established within the West Midlands and a new trauma desk was created at the Ambulance service HQ which can call on the help of a number of experienced teams that can be deployed within minutes to a major incident almost anywhere in the West Midlands. This major reformation of a health service was truly inspirational, especially when it was achieved by a number of clinicians with relatively little accredited management training and without them giving up their clinical time, a true clinical leadership success story. 3) The last component of the evening was Dr Crombie’s thoughts on why this project had been successful and how simple basic principles could be applied to almost any other project. Dr Crombie’s 3 big principles were: Collaborate – leave your ego’s at the door and try to put together a team that can work together. If you have to, invite everyone involved to a free dinner at your expense – even doctors don’t turn down free food! Governance – establish a set of rules/guidelines that dictate how your project will be run. Try to get everyone involved singing off the same hymn sheet. A very good example of this from Dr Crombie’s case history was that all of the services involved in the scheme agreed to use the same emergency medicine kit and all follow the same Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), so that when the teams work together they almost work as one single effective team rather than distinct groups that cannot interact. Resilience – the service you reform/create must withstand the test of time. If a project is solely driven by one person then it will collapse as soon as that person moves on. This is a well-known problem with the NHS as a whole, new managers always have “great new ideas” and as soon as that manager changes job all of their hard work goes to waste. To ensure that a project has resilience, the “project manager” must create a sense of purpose and ownership of the project within their teams. Members of the team must “buy in” to the goals of the project and one of the best ways of doing that is to ask the team members for their advice on how the project should proceed. If people feel a project was their idea then they are far more likely to work for it. This requires the manager to keep their ego on a short leash and to let their team take credit. The take home message from this talk was that the days of doctors being purely clinical is over! If you want to be a consultant in any speciality in the future, you will need a basic underlying knowledge of management and leadership. Upcoming events from the Birmingham Students Medical Leadership Society: Wednesday 27th November LT3 Medical School, 6pm ‘Learning to Lead- Preparing the next generation of junior doctors for management’ By Mr Tim Smart, CEO Kings Hospital NHS Trust Thursday 5th December LT3 Medical School, 6pm ‘Why should doctors get involved in management’ By Dr Mark Newbold, CEO of BHH NHS Trust If you would like to get in touch with the society or attend any of our events please do contact us by email or via our Facebook group. We look forward to hearing from you. https://www.facebook.com/groups/676838225676202/ email@example.com
over 6 years ago
I have recently spent a few days following around registrars on military ward rounds. It has been a fantastic experience for learning about trauma care and rehab, but more importantly it has shown me just how vital team spirit is to modern health care! The military ward round is done once a week. It starts with a huge MDT of almost 40 people, including nurses, physios, registrars and consultants from all of the specialities involved in trauma and rehab. The main trauma ward round team then go to speak to all of the patients in the hospital. The team normally consists of at least one T+O consultant, one plastics, two physios, two nurses, 3 registrars and a few others. This ward round team is huge, unweildly and probably very costly, but those military patients receive a phenomenal level of care that is very quick and efficient. Having then compared this level of care with what I have experience on my 4th year speciality medicine placement, I now feel the NHS has a lot to learn about team work. I am sure that everyone working in healthcare can relate to situations where patients have been admitted under the care of one team, who don’t really know what to do with the patient but struggle on bravely until they are really lost and then look around to see who they can beg for help. The patient then gets ping-ponged around for a few days while management plans are made separately. All of the junior doctors are stressed because they keep having to contact multiple teams to ask what should be done next. The patient is left feeling that their care wasn’t handled very well and is probably less than happy with the delay to their definite treatment. The patient, thankfully, normally ends up getting the correct treatment eventually, but there is often a massive prolongation of their stay in hospital. These prolonged stays are not good for the patient due to increasing risks of complications, side effects, hospital acquired infections etc. They are not good for the health care staff, who get stressed that their patients aren’t receiving the optimum care. The delays are very bad for the NHS managers, who might miss targerts, lose funding and have to juggle beds even more than normal. Finally, it is not good for the NHS as a hole, which has to stump up the very expensive fees these delays cause (approximately £500 a night). There is a simple solution to this which would save a huge amount of time, energy and money. TEAM WORK! Every upper-GI ward round should be done with the consultant surgeon team and a gastroenterologist (even a trainee would probably do) and vice versa, every Gastroenterology ward round should have a surgeon attached. Every orthopaedic ward round should be done with an elderly care physician, physio/rehab specialist and a social worker. Every diabetic foot clinic should have a diabetologist, podiatrist, vascular surgeon and/or orthopaedic surgeon (even trainees). Etc. etc. etc. A more multi-disciplinary team approach will make patient care quicker, more appropriate and less stressful for everyone involved. It would benefit the patients, the staff and the NHS. To begin with it might not seem like an easy situation to arrange. Everyone is over worked, no one has free time, no one has much of a spare budget and everyone has an ego. But... Team work will be essential to improving the NHS. Many MDTs already exist as meetings. MDTs already exist as ED trauma teams, ED resus teams and Military trauma teams. There is no reason why lessons can’t be learnt from these examples and applied to every other field of medicine. I know that as medical students (and probably every other health care student) the theory of how MDTs should work is rammed down our throats time after time, but I personally still think the NHS has a long way to go to live up to the whole team work ethos and that we as the younger, idealist generation of future healthcare professionals should make this one of our key aims for our future careers. When we finally become senior health care professionals we should try our best to make all clinical encounters an MDT approach.
over 6 years ago
This is a post about oPortfolio - a project that Meducation and Podmedics are collaborating on. We have a Kickstarter project and would love your support! Students? Junior Doctors? Senior Doctors? Over the last two days we've been asked by lots of people who oPortfolio is for. Some people want it for students, others to replace junior doctor systems, and some for revalidation purposes. The simple answer is that it's for everyone going through their medical careers from student to consultant and on to retirement. Challenges There are two challenges to building a system that's relevant for such a wide variety of people. The first is to make something that has all the features that are needed for all the people. We are strong believers in self-directed learning and want that to be at the core of oPortfolio. We want people to be able to build their own personal portfolios, keeping a log of everything they want to - their own personal space for reflection and learning. oPortfolio should be something that you find useful at all stages, and that's crucial to our vision. The second challenge is working with existing ePortfolio systems, and to have functionality that deaneries and Colleges need to adopt our platform if they want to. Making a system that is incompatible with existing systems, or that involves doctors still having to use other horrible software defies the whole point of what we're doing. If a user's oPortfolio has to be manually copied & pasted into another system, everyone loses out. This, therefore, also has to be a large consideration as we move forwards. At all times, we will have to balance these two challenges up against each other. Conclusion oPortfolio is for everyone. It certainly won't have all the features that everyone needs from day one, but our aim is to build a solid base everyone can use, and then expand it from there. With regards to who we give our initial focus to, it will be the people who support us on Kickstarter. They are showing genuine support for what we're doing, and therefore deserve to be prioritised. That only seems fair. Please support us today. Thank you.
over 6 years ago
In this month’s SBMJ (May 2013) a GP called Dr Michael Ingram has written a very good article highlighting some of the problems with the modern NHS’s administrative systems, especially relating to the huge amount of GP time wasted on following up after administrative errors and failings. I personally think that it is important for people working within the NHS to write articles like this because without them then many of us would be unaware of these problems or would feel less confident in voicing our own similar thoughts. The NHS is a fantastic idea and does provide an excellent service compared to many other health care systems around the world, but there is always room for improvement – especially on the administrative side! The issues raised by Dr Ingram were: Histology specimens being analysed but reports not being sent to the GP on time or with the correct information. Histology reports not being discussed with patient’s directly when they try and contact the hospital to find out the results and instead being referred to their GP, who experiences the problem stated above. GP’s are being left to deal with patient’s problems that have nothing to do with the GP and their job and have everything to do with an inefficient NHS bureaucracy. These problems and complaints often taking up to a third of a GP’s working day and thereby reducing the time they can spend actually treating patients. Having to arrange new outpatient appointments for patients when their appointment letters went missing or when appointments were never made etc. Even getting outpatient appointments in the first place and how these are often delayed well after the recommended 6 week wait. Patients who attend outpatient appointments often have to consult their GP to get a prescription that the hospital consultant has recommended, so that the GP bares the cost and not the hospital. My only issue with this article is that Dr Ingram highlights a number of problems with the NHS systems but then does not offer a single solution/idea on how these systems could be improved. When medical students are taught to write articles for publication it is drummed into us that we should always finish the discussion section with a conclusion and recommendations for further work/ implications for practice. I was just thinking that if doctors, medical students, nurses and NHS staff want to complain about the NHS’s failings then at least suggest some ways of improving these problems at the same time. This then turns what is essentially a complaint/rant into helpful, potentially productive criticism. If you (the staff) have noticed that these problems exist then you have also probably given some thought to why the problem exists, so why not just say/write how you think the issue could be resolved? If your grievances and solutions are documented and available then someone in the NHS administration might take your idea up and actually put it into practice, potentially reducing the problem (a disgustingly idealist thought I know). A number of times I have been told during medical school lectures and at key note speeches at conferences that medical students are a valuable resource to the NHS administration because we visit different hospitals, we wander around the whole hospital, we get exposed to the good and bad practice and we do not have any particular loyalty to any one department and can therefore objective observations. So, I was thinking it might be interesting to ask as many medical students as possible for their thoughts on how to improve the systems within the NHS. So I implore any of you reading this blog: write your own blog about short comings that you have noticed, make a recommendation for how to improve it and then maybe leave a link in the comments below this blog. If we start taking more of an interest in the NHS around us and start documenting where improvements could be made then maybe we could together work to create a more efficient and effective NHS. So I briefly just sat down and had a think earlier today about a few potential solutions for the problems highlighted in Dr Ingram’s article. A community pathology team that handles all of the GP’s pathology specimens and referrals. A “patient pathway co-ordinator” could be employed as additional administrative staff by GP surgeries to chase up all of the appointments and missing information that is currently using up a lot of the GP’s time and thereby freeing them to see more patients. I am sure this role is already carried out by admin staff in GP practices but perhaps in an ad hoc way, rather than that being their entire job. Do the majority of GP practices get access to the hospitals computer systems? Surely, if GPs had access to the hospital systems this would mean a greater efficiency for booking outpatient appointments and for allowing GPs to follow up test results etc. In the few outpatient departments I have come across outpatient appointments are often made by the administration team and then sent by letter to the patients, with the patient not being given a choice of when is good for them. Would it not be more efficient for the administrative staff to send the patients a number of appointment options for the patient to select one appropriate for them? Eliyahu M. Goldratt was a business consultant who revolutionized manufacturing efficiency a few years ago. He wrote a number of books on his theories that are very interesting and easy to read because he tries to explain most of his points using a narrative – “The Goal” and “Critical Chain” being just tow. His business theories focussed on finding the bottle neck in an industrial process, because if that is the rate limiting step in the manufacturing process then it is the most essential part for improving efficiency of the whole process. Currently, most GPs refer patients to outpatient appointments at hospitals and this can often take weeks or months. The outpatient appointments are a bottle neck in the process of getting patients the care they require. Therefore, focussing attention on how outpatient appointments are co-ordinated and run would improve the efficiency in the “patient pathway” as a whole. a. Run more outpatient clinics. b. Pay consultants overtime to do more clinics, potentially in the evenings or at weekends. While a lot may not want to do this, a few may volunteer and help to reduce the back log on the waiting lists. c. Have more patients seen by nurse specialists so that more time is freed up for the consultants to see the more urgent or serious patients. d. An obvious, yet expensive solution, hire more consultants to help with the ever increasing workload. e. Change the outpatient system so that it becomes more of an assembly line system with one doctor and a team of nurses handling the “new patient” appointments and another team handling the “old patient” follow up appointments rather than having them all mixed together at the same time. I am sure that there are many criticisms of the points I have written above and I would be interested to hear them. I would also love to hear any other solutions for the problems mentioned above. Final thought for today … Why shouldn’t medical students make criticisms of inefficiencies and point them out to the relevant administrator? If anyone else is interested in how the NHS as a whole is run then there is a new organisation called the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management that is keen to recruit interested student members (www.fmlm.ac.uk).
almost 7 years ago
Thanks to those who read my last post. I was encouraged to hear from my colleagues at Med school that the post sounded very positive and hopefully. A few of them queried whether I had actually written it because there was a noticeable lack of sarcasm or criticism. So... the following posts may be a bit different. A little warning - some of what I post may be me playing "Devil's advocate" because I believe that everything should be questioned and sparking debate is a good way of making us all evaluate what we truly think on a subject. With no further a do, let's get on to the subject of today's post .... An Introduction to Clinical Medicine The previous year was my first as a clinical med student. Before we started I naively thought that we would be placed in helpful, encouraging environments that would support us in our learning, so that we were able to maximize our clinical experience. My hope was that there would be lots of enthusiastic doctors willing to teach, a well organised teaching schedule and admin staff that would be able to help us with any difficulties. I hoped these would all be in place so that WE medical students could be turned from a bunch of confused, under-grad science students into the best junior doctors we could possibly be. It seems that medical school and the NHS have a very different opinion of what clinical medical teaching should be like. What they seem to want us to do is 1) listen to the same old health and safety lecture at least twice a term, 2) re-learn how to wash our hands every 4 weeks, 3) Practicing signing our name on a register - even when this is completely pointless because there are no staff at the hospital anyway because the roads are shut with 10 inches of snow most of the time, 4) Master the art of filling in forms that no one will ever look at or use in anyway that is productive, 5) STAY OUT OF THE WAY OF THE BUSY STAFF because we are useless nuisances who spread MRSA and C.Dif where ever we go! How we all learn medicine and pass our exams is any ones guess! Undergraduate Co-Ordinators - Why won't you make life easier for us? While at my last placement I was elected as the 3rd year student representative for that hospital. While I was fulfilling that role it got me wondering what it is that Under-grad Co-Ordinators actually do? I thought this may be an interesting topic of debate. 1) Who are they and how qualified are they? 2) what is their job description and what are they supposed to be doing? 3) Are they a universal phenomena? or have they just evolved within the West Midlands? 4) Does anyone know an under-grad Co-Ordinator (UC - not ulcerative colitis) who has actually been more benefit than nuisance? 1) UC's as a species are generally female, middle aged, motherly types who like to colonize obscure offices in far flung corners of NHS training hospitals. They can normally be found in packs or as they are locally known "A Confusion of co-ordinators". How are they qualified? I have absolutely no idea, but I am guessing not degrees in Human Resource Development. 2)I am fairly certain what their job should involve: 1) be a friendly supportive face for the poor medical students; 2) organise a series of lectures; 3) organise the medical students into teaching firms with enthusiastic consultants who are happy to give them regular teaching; 4) ensure the students are taught clinical skills so that they can progress to being competent juniors; 5) be a point of contact for when any students are experiencing difficulties in their hospital and hopefully help them to rectify those problems to aid their learning. What do they actually do? It seems to be a mystery. I quite regularly receive emails that say that I wasn't in hospital on a certain day, when I was in fact at another hospital that they specifically sent me to on that day. I often receive emails saying that my lectures are cancelled just as I have driven for over an hour through rush hour traffic to attend. I sometimes receive emails saying that I, specifically, am the cause of the whole hospitals MRSA infection because I once wore a tie. I never receive emails saying that such and such a doctor is happy to teach me. I never receive emails with lecture slides attached to them so that I can revise said lectures in time for an exam. I NEVER receive any emails with anything useful in them that has been sent by a UC! Questions 3 and 4, I have no idea what the answers are but would be genuinely pleased to hear people's responses. The reason I have written this blog is that, these people have frustrated my colleagues and I all year. I am sure they are integral to our learning in some way and I am sure that they could be very useful to us, but at the moment I just cannot say that they are as useful as they should be. To any NHS manager/ medical educator out their I make this plea I am more than happy to give up 2 weeks of my life to shadow some UC to see what it is they do. In essence I want to audit what it is they do on a day to day basis and work out if they are a cost-effective use of the NHS budget? I want to investigate what it is they spend their time on and how many students they help during a day? I would like someone with a fresh pair of eyes to go into those obscure offices and see if they can find any way of improving the systems so that future generations of medical students do not have to relive the inefficiencies that we have lived through. I want the system to be improved for everyone's sake. OR if you won't let a medical student audit the process, could you manager's at least send your UC's to learn from other hospitals where things are done better! If we (potential future) doctors have to live by the rule of EVIDENCED BASED MEDICINE, why shouldn't the admin staff live by a similar rule of EVIDENCED BASED ADMINISTRATION? Share good ideas, learn from the best, always look for improvements rather than keep the same old inefficient, pointless systems year after year. My final point on the subject - at the end of every term we have to fill in long feedback forms on what we thought of the hospital and the teaching. I know for a fact that most of those forms contain huge amounts of criticism - a lot of which was written exactly the same the year before! So, they are collecting all of this feedback and yet nothing seems to change in some hospitals. It all just seems such a pointless waste. Take away thought for the day. By auditing and improving the efficiency, of the admin side of an undergraduate medical education, I would hope the system as a whole would be improved and hence better, more knowledgeable, less cynical, less bitter, less stressed junior doctors would be produced as a result. Surely, that is something that everyone involved in medical education should be aiming for. Who is watching (and assessing) the watchers!
almost 7 years ago
Worst experience ever? - this is pretty difficult as I've worked in some of the poorest countries in the world and seen some things that should never happen like children dying of dehydration and malaria. But this recent experience was definitely the worst. It was midnight and I was trying to get my 16 month old to sleep having woken up after vomiting in his cot. Despite paracetamol, ibuprofen, stripping to nappy, damp sponging and having the window open he went rigid and started fitting. It only lasted a minute or two yet felt like an eternity as he was unable to breathe and became progressively blue as my mind raced ahead to brain damage or some other horrible sequalae. The fitting stopped and my mind turned to whether I was going to have to start CPR. I lay him on the floor and put my ear to his chest and was glad to hear a strong heartbeat but he was floppy with a compromised airway so I quickly got him in the recovery position. The ambulance arrived in 8 minutes and after some oxygen and some observations he was strapped in and ready to go. He had been unconscious for about 15 minutes but was starting to come round, much to my relief. The ambulance crew were great and their quick response made all the difference but then they took nearly half an hour to get to A&E in the middle of the night because they took the most awkward route imaginable. I don't know if it was a deliberate delaying tactic or just a lack of local knowledge but even without a blue light I could have done it in half the time! Why do ambulances not have GPS - ideally with local traffic info built in? We arrived in A&E and were ushered to a miserable receptionist who took our details and told us to have a seat. I noticed above her head that the wait time was 3.5 hours, though we did see a junior nurse who took his observations again. Not long after the screen changed to a 5 hour wait and a bit later to a 6 hour wait! I am glad to say that by about 3 hours my little man was back to his usual self (as evidenced by his attempts at destroying the department) and so after getting the nurse to repeat his obs (all normal) we decided to take him home, knowing we had a few more hours to wait for the doctor, and that the doctor was now unlikely to do anything as he was now well. I tell the story in such detail in part for catharsis, in part to share my brief insight into being on the other side of the consultation, but also because it illustrated a number of system failures. It was a horrible experience but made a lot worse by those system failures. And I couldn't help but feel even more sorry for those around me who didn't have the medical experience that I had to contextualise it all. Sickness, in ourselves or our loved ones, is bad enough without the system making it worse. I had 3 hours of walking around the department with my son in my arms which gave me plenty of time to observe what was going on around me and consider whether it could be improved. I did of course not have access to all areas and so couldn't see what was happening behind the scenes so things may have been busier than I was aware of. Also it was only one evening so not necessarily representative. There were about 15 children in the department and for the 3 hours we were there only a handful of new patients that arrived so no obvious reason for the increasing delay. As I walked around it was clear to me that at least half of the children didn't need to be there. Some were fast asleep on the benches, arguably suggesting they didn't need emergency treatment. One lad had a minor head injury that just needed a clean and some advice. Whilst I didn't ask anyone what was wrong with people talk and so you hear what some of the problems were. Some were definately far more appropriate for general practice. So how could things have been improved and could technology have helped as well? One thing that struck me is that the 'triage' nurse would have been much better as a senior doctor. Not necessarily a consultant but certainly someone with the experience to make decisions. Had this been the case I think a good number could have been sent home very quickly, maybe with some basic treatment or maybe just with advice. Even if it was more complex it may have been that an urgent outpatient in a few days time would have been a much more satisfactory way of dealing with the problem. Even in our case where immediate discharge wouldn't have been appropriate a senior doctor could have made a quick assessment and said "let's observe him for a couple of hours and then repeat is obs - if he is well, the obs are normal and you are happy then you can go home". This would have made the world of difference to us. So where does the technology come in? I've already mentioned Sat Nav for the ambulance but there are a number of other points where technology could have played a part in improving patient experience. Starting with the ambulance if they had access to real time data on hospital A&E waiting times they may have been able to divert us to a hospital with a much shorter time. This is even more important for adult hospitals were the turnover of patients is much higher. Such information could help staff and patients make more informed decisions. The ambulance took us to hospital which was probably appropriate for us but not for everyone. Unfortunately many of the other services like GP out of hours are not always prepared to accept such patients and again the ambulance crews need to know where is available and what access and waiting times they have. Walk-in patients are often also totally inappropriate and an easy method of redirection would be beneficial for all concerned. But this requires change and may even require such radical ideas as paying for transport to take patients to alternative locations if they are more appropraite. The reasons patient's choose A&E when other services would be far more appropriate are many and complex. It can be about transport and convenience and past experiences and many other things. It is likely that at least some of it is that patients often struggle to get an appointment to see their own GP within a reasonable time frame or just that their impression is that it will be difficult to get an appointment so they don't even try. But imagine a system where the waiting times for appointments for all GPs and out of hours services were readily available to hospitals, ambulances, NHS direct etc. Even better imagine that authorised people could book appointments directly, even when the practice was closed. How many patients would be happy to avoid a long wait in A&E if they had the reassurance of a GP appointment the next day? And the technology already exists to do some of this and it wouldn't be that hard to adapt current technology to provide this functionality. Yet it still doesn't happen. I have my theories as to why but this is enough for one post. In case you were wondering my son appears to have made a full recovery with no obvious ongoing problems. I think I have recovered and then he makes the same breathing noises he made just before the fit and I am transported back to that fateful night. I think it will take time for the feelings to fade.
Dr Damian Williams
almost 7 years ago
I started medical school in 2007 wanting to 'making people better'. I stopped medical school in 2010 facing the reality of not being able to get better myself, being ill and later to be diagnosed with several long term health conditions. This post is about my transition from being a medical student, to the other side - being a patient. There are many things I wish I knew about long-term health conditions and patients when I was a medical student. I hope that through this post, current medical students can become aware of some of theses things and put them into practice as doctors themselves. I went to medical school because I wanted to help people and make them better. I admired doctors up on their pedestals for their knowledge and skills and expertise to 'fix things'. The hardest thing for me was accepting that doctors can't always make people better - they couldn't make me better. Holding doctors so highly meant it was very difficult for me to accept their limitations when it came to incurable long-term conditions and then to accept that as a patient I had capacity myself to help my conditions and situation. Having studied medicine at a very academic university, I had a very strict perception of knowledge. Knowledge was hard and fast medical facts that were taught in a formal setting. I worked all day and night learning the anatomical names for all the muscles in the eye, the cranial nerves and citric acid cycle, not to mention the pharmacology in second year. Being immersed in that academic scientific environment, I correlated expertise with PhDs and papers. It was a real challenge to realise that knowledge doesn't always have to be acquired through a formal educational but that it can be acquired through experience. Importantly, knowledge acquired through experience is equally valid! This means the knowledge my clinicians have developed through studying and working is as valid as my knowledge of my conditions, symptoms and triggers, developed through experiencing it day in day out. I used to feel cross about 'expert patients' - I have spent all these hours in a library learning the biochemistry and pharmacology and 'Joe Bloggs' walks in and knows it all! That wasn't the right attitude, and wasn't fair on patients. As an expert patient myself now, I have come to understood that we are experts through different means, and in different fields. My clinicians remain experts in the biological aspects on disease, but that's not the full picture. I am an expert in the psychological and social impact of my conditions. All aspects need to be taken into account if I am going to have holistic integrated care - the biopsychosocial model in practice - and that's where shared-decision making comes in. The other concept which is has been shattered since making the transition from medical student to patient is that of routine. In my first rotation, orthopaedics and rheumatology, I lost track within the first week of how many outpatient appointments I sat in on. I didn't really think anything of them - they are just another 15 minute slot of time filled with learning in a very busy day. As a patient, my perspective couldn't be more different. I have one appointment with my consultant a year, and spend weeks planning and preparing, then a month recovering emotionally. Earlier this year I wrote a whole post just about this - The Anatomy of an Appointment. Appointments are routine for you - they are not for us! The concept of routine applies to symptoms too. After my first relapse, I had an emergency appointment with my consultant, and presented with very blurred vision and almost total loss of movement in my hands. That very fact I had requested an urgent appointment suggest how worried I was. My consultants response in the appointment was "there is nothing alarming about your symptoms". I fully appreciate that my symptoms may not have meant I was going to drop dead there and then, and that in comparison to his patients in ICU, I was not as serious. But loosing vision and all use of ones hands at the age of 23 (or any age for that matter) is alarming in my books! I guess he was trying to reassure me, but it didn't come across like that! I have a Chiari malformation (in addition to Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Elhers-Danlos Syndrome) and have been referred to a neurosurgeon to discuss the possibility of neurosurgery. It is stating the obvious to say that for a neurosurgeon, brain surgery is routine - it's their job! For me, the prospect of even being referred to a neurosurgeon was terrifying, before I even got to the stage of discussing the operation. It is not a routine experience at all! At the moment, surgery is not needed (phew!) but the initial experience of this contact with neurosurgeons illustrates the concept of routines and how much our perspectives differ. As someone with three quite rare and complex conditions, I am invariable met in A&E with comments like "you are so interesting!". I remember sitting in the hospital cafeteria at lunch as a student and literally feasting on the 'fascinating' cases we had seen on upstairs on the wards that morning. "oh you must go and see that really interesting patient with X, Y and Z!" I am so thankful that you all find medicine so interesting - you need that passion and fascination to help you with the ongoing learning and drive to be a doctor. I found it fascinating too! But I no longer find neurology that interesting - it is too close to home. Nothing is "interesting" if you live with it day in day out. No matter what funky things my autonomic nervous may be doing, there is nothing interesting or fascinating about temporary paralysis, headaches and the day to day grind of my symptoms. This post was inspired by NHS Change Day (13th March 2013) - as a patient, I wanted to share these few things with medical students, what I wish I knew when I was where you are now, to help the next generation of doctors become the very best doctors they can. I wish you all the very best for the rest of your studies, and thank you very much for reading! Anya de Iongh www.thepatientpatient2011.blogspot.co.uk @anyadei
Anya de Iongh
almost 7 years ago
Introduction GPs for a little while have been asked to compare each other’s outpatient referrals rates. The idea is that this peer to peer open review will help us understand each others referral patterns. For some reason and due to a natural competitive nature of human behaviour, I think we have these peer to peer figures put to us to try to get us to refer less into hospital outpatients. It’s always hard to benchmark GP surgeries but outpatient referral benchmarking is particularly poor for several reasons It's Very Difficult to Normalise Surgeries Surgeries have different mortalities morbidities ages and other confounding factors that it becomes very hard to create an algorithm to create a weighting factor to properly compare one surgery against another. There Are Several Reasons For The Referral I’ll go into more detail on this point later but there are several reasons why doctors refer patients into hospital which can range from: doctors knowing a lot about the condition and picking up subtle symptoms and signs lesser experienced doctors would have ignored; all the way to not knowing about the condition and needing some advice from an expert in the condition. We Need To Look At The Bigger Picture The biggest killer to our budget is non-elective admissions and it’s the one area where patient, commissioner and doctor converge. Patients want to keep out of hospital, it’s cheaper for the NHS and Doctors don’t like the lack of continuity when patients go in. For me I see every admission to hospital as a fail. Of course it’s more complex than this and it might be totally appropriate but if we work on this concept backwards, it will help us more. Likewise if we try to reduce outpatient referrals because we are pressurised to, they may end up in hospitalisation and cost the NHS £10,000s rather than £100s as an outpatient. We need to look at the bigger picture and refer especially if we believe that referrals will lead to less hospitalisation of patients further down the line. To put things into perspective 2 symptoms patients present which I take very seriously are palpitations in the elderly and breathlessness. Both symptoms are very real and normally lead to undiagnosed conditions which if we don’t tackle and diagnose early enough will cause patients to deteriorate and end up in hospital. Education, Education, Education When I first went into commissioning as a lead in 2006 I had this idea of getting to the bottom of why GPs refer patients to outpatients. The idea being if we knew why, we would know how to best tackle specialities. I asked my GPs to record which speciality to refer to and why they referred over a 7 month period. The reason for admission was complex but we divided them up into these categories: 2nd care input required for management of the condition. We know about the condition but have drawn the line with what we can do in primary care. An example of this is when we’ve done a 24 hour tape and found a patient has 2sec pauses and needs a pace maker. 2nd care input required for diagnosis. We think this patient has these symptoms which are related to this condition but don’t really know about the diagnosis and need help with this. An example of this is when a patient presents with diarrhoea to a gastroenterologist There could be several reasons for this and we need help from the gastroenterologist to confirm the diagnosis via a colonscopy and ogd etc. Management Advice. We know what the patient has but need help with managing the condition. For example uncontrolled heart failure or recurrent sinusitis. Consultant to Consultant Referral. As advised between consultants. Patient Choice. Sometimes the patient just wants to see the hospital doctor. The results are enclosed here in Excel and displayed below. Please click on the graph thumbnail below. Reasons For Referrals Firstly a few disclaimers and thoughts. These figures were before any GPSI ENT, Dermatology or Musculosketal services which probably would have made an impact on the figures. There are a few anomalies which may need further thought eg I’m surprised Rheumatology for 2nd input for diagnosis is so low, as frequently I have patients with high ESRs and CRPs which I need advise on diagnoses. Also audiology medicine doesn’t quite look right. The cardiology referral is probably high for management advise due to help on ECG interpretation although this is an assumption. This is just a 7 month period from a subset of 8-9 GPs. Although we were careful to explain each category and it’s meaning, more work might need to be done to clarify the findings further. In my opinion the one area where GPs need to get grips with is management advice as it’s an admission that I know what the patient has and need help on how to treat them. This graph is listed in order of management advice for this reason. So what do you do to respond to this? The most logical step is to education GPs on the left hand side of this graph and invest in your work force but more and more I see intermediary GPSI services which are the provider arm of a commissioning group led to help intercept referrals to hospital. In favour of the data most of the left hand side of the graph have been converted into a GPSI service at one point. In my area what has happened is that referrals rates have actually gone up into these services with no decline in the outgoing speciality as GPs become dis-empowered and just off load any symptoms which patients have which they would have probably had a higher threshold to refer on if these GPSI services were not available. Having said that GPSI services can have a role in the pathway and I’m not averse to their implementation, we just have to find a better way to use their services. 3 Step Plan As I’m not one to just give problems here are my 3 suggestions to help referrals. To have a more responsive Layered Outpatient Service. Setting up an 18 week target for all outpatients is strange, as symptoms and specialities need to be prioritised. For example I don’t mind waiting 20 weeks for a ENT referral on a condition which is bothering me but not life threatening but need to only have a 3 week turn over if I’m breathless with a sudden reduction in my exercise tolerance. This adds an extra layer of complexity but always in the back of my mind it’s about getting them seen sooner to prevent hospitalisation. Education, education, education It’s ironic that the first budget to be slashed in my area was education. We need to education our GPs to empower them to bring the management advice category down as this is the category which will make the biggest impact to improving health care. In essence we need to focus on working on the left hand side of this graph first. Diagnose Earlier and Refer Appropriately The worst case scenario is when GPs refer patients to the wrong speciality and it can happen frequently as symptoms blur between conditions. This leads to delayed diagnosis, delayed management and you guessed it, increased hospitalisation. The obvious example is whether patients with breathlessness is caused by heart or lung or is psychogenic. As GPs we need to work up patients appropriately and make a best choice based on the evidence in front of us. Peer to peer GP delayed referral letter analysis groups have a place in this process. Conclusion At the end of the day it's about appropriate referrals always, not just a reduction. Indeed for us to get a grip on the NHS Budgets as future Clinical Commissioners, I would expect outpatient referrals to go up at the expense of non-elective, as then you are looking at patients being seen and diagnosed earlier and kept out of hospital.
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