Group clinic is proving its worth to arthritis patients

Northumbria HelpForce volunteers.
Northumbria HelpForce volunteers.

Welcome to this month’s matron column, bringing you up to date with the health services provided in Morpeth.

The last time I wrote in this newspaper, we were still in the depths of winter. It seemed to be a winter that this year lasted longer than usual so it’s good to be enjoying some warm summer weather at long last.

The Morpeth NHS Centre.

The Morpeth NHS Centre.

For this month’s column, I’m going to focus on a new type of outpatient clinic that we’re running at Morpeth NHS Centre, as well as our latest patient experience results at the Whalton Unit.

As it has been a little while since I last mentioned the centre, I’ll first recap on what services are provided from there.

The centre brings outpatient and diagnostic services, as well as primary care, under one roof, with the aim to deliver better-integrated care, close to people’s homes.

From having an x-ray to seeing a specialist consultant or nurse, the centre saves patients from travelling further afield to a general hospital for their care.

Dozens of outpatient clinics, dealing with various conditions, are held every month, in which patients have a single, individual appointment with a specialist.

However, one of these clinics takes on a different format.

Our clinic for patients who have been newly-diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis is run as a group session, with many patients attending at the same time.

It is the brainchild of consultants Dr Iain Goff and Dr Liz Coulson, and specialist nurse Joann Evans, and it is held on the second Thursday of the month.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.

The symptoms usually affect the hands, wrists and feet.

For people who haven’t heard of a group clinic before, I appreciate that this may sound a little strange.

However, the idea behind it is to give patients — all of whom have been recently diagnosed with the condition — information about rheumatoid arthritis and what they can expect to experience while living with it.

The education session is led by different members of the multi-disciplinary team. These care staff provide supportive treatments to help patients to manage their condition and live as full a life as possible.

This includes physiotherapists, occupational therapists and podiatrists, who will help patients to get to know about the different aspects of the condition.

The team advises them how to stay mobile and how to find ways around any problems they may have with daily activities and tasks.

There is then a question and answer session, where patients can ask the team about any aspect of living with rheumatoid arthritis.

Holding the clinic in this way is better for patients as they benefit from all the information they receive at the education session, and they have the opportunity to ask anything they want to know about the condition.

Even if they do not wish to ask a question themselves, they often learn a great deal from the questions other patients ask during the session and the answers they receive.

After all, these are people who have all been newly-diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and they are often experiencing the same symptoms and going through the same emotions as one another.

Patients also take a great deal from speaking to other patients — people they wouldn’t have come into contact otherwise.

And they may feel reassured that they’re not alone in facing this condition.

During the clinic, patients still have the opportunity to have a short one-to-one appointment with the specialist to discuss their own personal circumstances.

They can assess and discuss the medication they are taking to relieve the symptoms and slow the progress of the condition.

Other specialities in our trust also run clinics like this. However, this is the first time it has been done at Morpeth, and I’m happy to say that it is going really well.

As you may know, we regularly seek the views of the patients receiving care across our trust so that we can continually improve.

Every month a member of our patient experience team comes to the Whalton Unit to speak to a sample of our inpatients about aspects of the care they receive, such as kindness and compassion, respect and dignity, and pain control.

It is a really important way of gauging how we’re doing, and we receive the results within 24 hours so if there are any problems we can do something to put it right straight away.

At our last visit at the end of May, we achieved very good results, with 100 percent of the patients surveyed saying they would be highly likely or likely to recommend the unit.

Patients’ comments about the care we provide were also very good, with high praise for the team, which is a boost for the staff.

Of course, there are also things for us to work on, which will help us to provide even better care to our patients.

This work is part of our highly-regarded patient experience programme, which is seen as one of the most comprehensive in the NHS.

Last month we won a national patient experience award for the third consecutive year, and earlier this year we were named Trust Of The Year for patient experience.

Before I sign off, I wanted to highlight that it is Volunteers’ Week this week.

Across our trust, we have around 900 volunteers who carry out a range of roles in our hospitals and in the community, and we’re celebrating all that they do.

From serving customers in our Hospital Volunteer Service shops to providing peer support to new mums with breastfeeding, they all do an amazing job.

As I’ve mentioned in this column previously, we’ve also got more than 25 young people — many of whom are from King Edward VI High School in Morpeth — who help to improve patients’ experiences in our hospitals.

The programme is going really well, and not only are they making a difference on the wards, but the young people are learning a huge amount from spending time with our patients in hospital.

We’re always on the look-out for more volunteers so if you’re interested in helping people and have some time on your hands, please get in our touch.

You can contact our team on 0191 203 1511, or email volunteers@northumbria.nhs.uk

So this week, in particular, I would like to pay tribute to all of the hospital and community volunteers for their help and to say a big thank you for all of their kind efforts.