Patients with stomach and intestinal problems will be seen quicker following the launch of a Gastroenterology clinic in Flintshire and Wrexham.
Led by dietitians, the clinic will see, diagnose and treat non-urgent patients and is expected to help reduce overall waiting times.
The project, funded for one year by the Bevan Commission’s Planned Care Innovation Programme, is called First Contact Advanced Clinical Practitioner (ACP) Dietitian Led Gastroenterology Clinic, which means that non-urgent patients with gut issues can be directly referred to an ACP Gastroenterology Dietitian for an initial assessment, diagnostics and management.
Jeanette Starkey, Gastroenterology Dietitian, Advanced Clinical Practitioner and Clinical Lead, said: “We have reviewed the skill mix within the gastroenterology department and, based on previous work, have identified that by utilizing the skills of an advanced clinical practitioner gastroenterology dietitian, we can significantly improve our outpatient services.
“This is a more streamlined, safe and effective pathway for patients with non-urgent gut issues.”
Patients referred to an acute hospital’s gastroenterology service will be assessed by gastro consultants and those identified as likely functional gut issues will be referred directly to an ACP. The service aims to reduce the waiting list for non-urgent gastroenterology patients, and it will enable consultants to see urgent or more complex patients more timely reducing risk of admission and improving management plans for patient.
New weekly First Contact Dietitian clinics have been set up in to see new patients, and tackle the current waiting list. Clinics are currently at Mold Community Hospital, Deeside Community Hospital, Wrexham Maelor Hospital and Caia Park surgery.
A similar successful Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) clinic was introduced in 2017-2019, which was led by dietitians, and GPs would refer patients to them. The clinic led to a 27 % decrease in number of patients age 16-50, referred by GPs to gastro secondary care, and 40% decrease in referrals with IBS type symptoms in 16-50 age group, referred by GPs to gastro secondary care.
The dietetic led IBS clinic saw 91% of patients seen were discharged without gastroenterology consultant input, 61% of patients reduced or stopped medicines and 80% of patients had symptom improvement post dietetic intervention.
Jeanette added: “We are hoping to build on the success of the dietetic led IBS clinic, and provide alternative timely, safe and effective referral and management pathways for functional gut patients. By utilising resources available to us in an alternative way it will help us meet patients' needs and improve their experience of case and service.”
The project is funded by the Bevan Commission’s Planned Care Innovation Programme, developed in partnership with Welsh Government and wider stakeholders. The programme was introduced to help relieve pressures on services due to the COVID-19 pandemic which paused the delivery of planned care service across Wales, creating increasing waiting times.