Patient helpline helps cut hospital returns

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THE region’s busiest orthopaedic unit’s new helpline to provide extra support and advice over the phone for patients following hip or knee joint replacements is making a positive impact.

In six months alone, the service from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has already helped reduce unnecessary re-admissions to hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside among those who have undergone planned orthopaedic operations.

The number has fallen from an average re-admission rate of eight per cent in March to around 2.5 per cent by the start of this month.

Details about the Orthopaedic Helpline are included at pre-admission outpatient appointments and when they 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.

Staff also have direct links to other support services such as short-term community support, physiotherapy and daily open access review clinicss.

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

He said: “A lot of our patients 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.”

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.

Patients having surgery at Wansbeck can ring 01670 529431.