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The NHS needs to learn a lesson from the Military MDT approach

Written by jacob matthews · Thursday 3rd October 2013

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.

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jacob matthews
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Junior Doctor (FY1) - Birmingham
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Posted over 5 years ago
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/815063_3 Really interesting article on making ward rounds more systematic.
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