Making changes to out-patients appointments has helped improve patients' engagement with their conditions.

PenCLAHRC

Following the release of a report showing that bringing researchers and patients together with NHS Trusts has benefits for clinical practice, we took a look at how the University of Exeter is collaborating with the NHS in the South West.

Amongst the projects taking place as part of the CLAHRC (Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care) is the development of an app that could help diabetic youngsters keep track of their condition more easily.

PenCLAHRC (Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care for the South West Peninsula) have also implemented the use of a blood-clotting drug with the potential to save the lives of around 400 trauma patients a year in the UK.

These are just two examples of the ground-breaking research being carried out by the South West collaboration, which approaches healthcare challenges by listening to the concerns of the healthcare professionals, policy makers and the public and identifies where their research expertise could have the most impact.

The risk of patients dying from severe blood loss could be reduced by 10 per cent after PenCLAHRC worked with the South West Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) to develop protocols for the use of the blood-clotting drug, TXA.

The Ambulance Trust was the first area to begin routinely using TXA in 2011. Their lead has now been followed by most other UK ambulance trusts.

Research found that, in cases of severe bleeding, TXA’s use in stabilising blood clots could increase the chance of survival of trauma patients. Further analysis showed that if the drug is given in the first hour after the trauma the risk of death is cut by a third.

Most research takes years to be applied to medical practices, but thanks to PenCLAHRC, the Ambulance Trust and the South West emergency departments’ work in developing the protocols for the drug’s use and the organisation’s commitment to implement the drug, ambulances were successfully using TXA only 18 months after the results of the study were published.

One of the areas of pioneering research PenCLAHRC has focussed on is University of Exeter’s study into diabetes; this has led to the development of useful tools and procedures to improve patient welfare.

One of these tools is a pre-clinic app, developed with the help of young people with diabetes, which aims to increase attendance of consultations and encourage young people to prioritise their diabetes management.

The development of the app followed the trial of an electronic questionnaire which was filled in by outpatients’ prior to them seeing a consultant. The Diabetes Intervention for Agenda Trial (DIAT) showed that the questionnaire enabled people to identify important areas for discussion in the consultation and helped them become more actively engaged with managing their condition.

Both of these projects enabled medical professionals to help patients manage their condition and focus their consultations on their concerns.

PenCLAHRC’s focus on patient engagement and using technology to help patients manage their condition is set to continue. One new project is looking at whether telephone conferences are a safe and effective way of consulting with patients with thyroid conditions and of following-up with patients recovering from urogynaecological surgery.

If successful these projects could improve patient satisfaction by decreasing waiting times for appointments and reducing costs at outpatient clinics.