Tackling the elective care backlog will certainly be a mammoth task, but it’s a central focus for the government and NHS leaders (with good reason). With waiting lists at a record high, streamlining referrals, increasing collaboration and reducing pressure on individual services has never been a bigger national priority.
Primary care services are being asked to use advice and guidance systems to help reduce the number of referrals sent to secondary care and triage more cases to community care services. This is part of the government’s plan for NHS providers to meet a number of targets for 2022/23, including:
- Reducing the cancer 62+-day waiting times to pre-pandemic levels by March 2023
- Eliminating elective care waits of over 18 months by April 2023
- Increasing diagnostic capacity to a minimum of 120% of pre-pandemic activity
levels to meet local need and support elective recovery
- Over 10% more patients completing treatment than in 2019/20
Below, we outline how your practice can translate this guidance into manageable actions. The actions will support your organisation to increase service capacity, while reducing the pressure facing your individual services and clinicians.
Supporting easy access to effective A&G
One of the most important things to consider when introducing any new solution is the impact it will have on the end users. While advice and guidance can be a fantastic tool, it’s essential that it is implemented in a way that does not add more work onto clinicians’ already loaded plates.
This means introducing solutions that have been tailored to their specific workflows and integrate seamlessly with the existing digital systems they are using. Onboarding should be intuitive and quick, and training requirements minimal. .
At Cinapsis, we achieve this by working closely with each of our partner Trusts. Through continual, open conversation we are able to understand the specific pain points they are facing and tailor the solution to meet these needs.This doesn’t stop post-implementation. Clinicians should be supported throughout onboarding, as they get to grips with the new system, and be able to access technical support when needed.
Making patient triage effortless
Effective triage has a huge role to play in helping to reduce pressure on elective care and tackle rising backlogs. By referring patients to the most appropriate treatment or service first time round, we can minimise the number of unnecessary referrals made to secondary care services and help those who really need it access treatment more quickly. Advice and guidance can help support this by enabling GPs to make shared decisions with specialists on individual cases.
Using a digital A&G platform, like Cinapsis SmartReferrals, primary care clinicians can request guidance by connecting with a secondary care specialist via phone, video call or message. Through the secure platform, they can ask for advice and even share diagnostic images directly. As a result, a decision on whether referral to secondary care is necessary can be made very quickly, often instantly. This not only stops patients joining waiting lists unnecessarily, but can help put their minds at rest and ensure they receive planned treatment sooner.
In Cheshire and Merseyside, our Smart Referrals platform has helped dermatology services eliminate unnecessary referrals - previously at 30% - from their two-week wait cancer pathway. 49% of the cases being submitted on the platform are now being successfully managed through advice and guidance alone. This equates to a significant time saving for both their primary and secondary care services, and a big step towards reducing waiting lists for dermatology treatment in the area.
Harnessing digital data to make improvements
When introducing an advice and guidance platform to meet elective recovery targets, visibility over system data is key. Digital A&G platforms like Cinapsis SmartReferrals automatically collect and track data that can be used to improve service efficiency and monitor progress against the national targets.
Patient data can be securely and compliantly shared to help practitioners in different services collaborate on care more easily. Integration with existing patient record systems can make this even more seamless, by making it possible for this data to be uploaded automatically to the ERS. This reduces admin time for clinicians, and prevents gaps in patient information that can slow down referrals and treatment pathways.
Meeting the new A&G targets will prove critical in tackling the elective care backlog. With the right systems in place to provide support to clinicians while reducing their workload, these targets can be successfully met through sustainable, impactful changes.