Torbay Hospital’s rheumatology team has been recognised for innovative work with patients who have praised the support they have received.

The specialist team have been awarded a finalist’s certificate in the renowned Health Service Journal (HSJ) awards.

The accolade is for new group clinics which not only help patients, but also maintain safety and quality while expanding the number seen and increasing mutual support and self-management of conditions.

Consultant rheumatologist Dr Kirsten Mackay said: “The rheumatology department is delighted to be finalists for the HSJ award.

“The various different group clinics were developed by the department as a long-term service re-design agenda.

“This was aimed at maintaining the best clinical service possible while managing a doubling of the numbers of rheumatology patients seen and treated.”

Dr Mackay added: “The idea is to start medications quickly, but also safely, to save time, to encourage multi-disciplinary team working and maintain patient satisfaction.

“Primarily the team aimed to provide a readily accessible service for patients and provide them with enough easily accessible information enabling them to self-manage aspects of their condition.

“The groups also encouraged them to discuss, share experiences and learning and mutually support each other.”

The award recognises this approach led to a 69 per cent reduction in nurse-led medication clinic appointments and decreased the time to starting medications from eight weeks, on some occasions, to ten days.

This resulted in freeing up six hours of nursing time for telephone clinics.

At the same time, patient satisfaction has been maintained at 4.7 out of 5.

Dr Mackay said that because of Covid-19, group clinics had been not been held, so a reorganised service now starts patients on rheumatology medications remotely.

She added: “This has been aided by the rheumatology service scripting and organising filming of ten dedicated medication videos and now, when we wish to start a rheumatology medication, we email the patient a link to the appropriate video.”