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New Orthopaedic Helpline reduces unnecessary hospital readmissions

Friday, 11 July, 2014
New Orthopaedic Helpline reduces unnecessary hospital readmissions

The north east’s busiest orthopaedic unit has launched a new helpline to provide extra support and advice over the phone for patients following hip or knee joint replacements.

Clinicians at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust launched the new dedicated ‘Orthopaedic Helpline’ earlier this year to support patients who have undergone planned orthopaedic operations. 

In six months alone, the helpline has already helped reduce unnecessary readmissions to hospitals in North Tyneside and Northumberland following planned hip or knee surgery, falling from an average readmission rate of 8 per cent in March 2012 to around 2.5 per cent by September 2012. 

With two dedicated phone lines – 0191 293 4220 for patients having surgery at North Tyneside or Hexham and 01670 529 431 for patients having surgery at Wansbeck – specialist surgical site surveillance nurses are available between 9am and 4pm every week, Monday to Friday.

Details about the Orthopaedic Helpline are included at pre-admission outpatient appointments and when patients leave hospital after surgery.  Patients can speak directly with specialist nurses for answers to common queries about wound swelling or oozing, pain management and getting back on their feet – without the need to contact their GP or attend hospital.

The specialist nurses also have direct links to other support services such as short term community support, physiotherapy and daily open access review clinics which patients can quickly attend if necessary.

Mr Scott Muller, Orthopaedic Consultant at Wansbeck General Hospital helped pioneer the project with surgical site surveillance nurses Gail Lowdon and Helen Geraghty.

Mr Muller said:  “The Orthopaedic Helpline has proven hugely successful across the Trust and helped us to significantly reduce the number of patients who end up being readmitted into our hospitals – often for very unnecessary reasons. 

“A lot of patients for example, simply need reassurance from a medical specialist once they have returned home on simple queries about their wound dressing, their level of pain and what they should and shouldn’t be doing during various stages of recovery.

“Having a direct route to speak to our specialist team of nurses means they do not need to bother their GP or make an unnecessary trip to hospital with their concerns.  Instead, they can get the immediate advice they need over the phone or can attend one of our daily open access clinics.”

When a patient calls the Orthopaedic Helpline, specialist nurses will contact relevant people on the patient’s behalf, including community based colleagues, GPs, physiotherapy teams, as well as the relevant consultant, ward staff, outpatient services and dressing clinics.

Carrying out over 3,000 planned orthopaedic operations and over 2,000 unplanned trauma orthopaedic cases at its three general hospitals in Hexham, North Tyneside and Wansbeck every year, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust runs one of the busiest orthopaedic departments in the north of England.

Following the success of the Orthopaedic Helpline for patients undergoing hip and knee joint replacements, Northumbria Healthcare is now rolling out the service for all orthopaedic patients.

Ann Wright, Executive Director of Surgery at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “The Orthopaedic Helpline allows us to provide much more streamlined care for patients once they leave hospital and are back at home following hip or knee surgery.

“Our specialist nurses at the end of the phone coordinate any necessary follow up care, whether that is in the patients’ own home or at their local community hospital.  This is especially important for those in rural areas like Berwick or Alnwick where a trip back to hospital where they originally had surgery is much further and often unnecessary.

“With a single point of access for advice, we can both educate patients on how best to look after themselves as they recover and how they can access the right help and support when they need it.  We know this has a hugely positive impact on overall patient experience and means we can deliver more convenient care for patients much closer to their homes following surgery.”

An awareness road show will take place at Berwick Infirmary on Tuesday 18 September 2012, between 12pm and 1pm to help educate community staff, GPs and patients about how to use new Orthopaedic Helpline.