Ro Kulkarni, an orthopaedic surgeon at Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, came up with the idea for the scheme after deciding that many of the consultations six weeks after surgery could take place without patients meeting health professionals in person.
Physiotherapist Clare Connor, an extended scope practitioner, and Mr Kulkarni decided that advice could be provided just as effectively over the telephone.
Before the new arrangement, patients would meet a health professional two weeks after their surgery to discuss treatment plans and any complications and concerns they had. Face-to-face consultations also took place at six and 14 weeks. Under the new initiative, Clare conducts the second post-op check-ups over the phone. Calling patients at an agreed time after the six-week interval, she asks them a series of questions to establish whether they need to see a health professional, such as whether they are experiencing severe pain or whether the pain is being controlled by analgesics. So far, only three of 50 patients who have received a telephone consultation have been diagnosed as needing to come into hospital for follow-up. Any patient who expresses a preference for a face-to-face appointment after six weeks will receive one, Mr Kulkarni stressed. However, he said, most patients found a telephone consultation more convenient as many of them could not drive to the hospital due to their injury; it also means they do not have to take time off work.
'It means that I can devote more time to seeing new patients rather than follow-up patients,' he added. Clare told Frontline the scheme had been a success. 'We found that after six weeks it was mostly a case of addressing concerns that could be handled over the phone. We weren't having to provide hands-on treatment. We have followed up the service with a satisfaction survey and patients rated the service very highly.'