Cwm Taf Health Board was a worthy winner of the Improving Patient Safety category at this year’s NHS Wales Awards for its project on patient flow.
By coordinating actions to make sure patients don’t wait unnecessarily for the care they need, health board staff have significantly reduced the time people spend waiting in ambulances and in the accident and emergency departments.
They’ve been able to demonstrate improved patient outcomes and experience, sometimes in areas they didn’t expect, and the changes have been sustained.
The Unscheduled Care Improvement Programme in Wales is designed to make it easy for people to get the right emergency and urgent care when it is needed, and to make sure that no-one has to wait unnecessarily for the care they need, or to go back to their home.
Support to improve patient flow in NHS Wales is a centrepiece of the programme, and Cwm Taf have been pioneers of this approach in Wales.
Staff from across NHS Wales come together regularly to share their experiences of improving patient flow at learning sessions led by 1000 Lives Improvement, and we had the third of in June in Cardiff this year. This was a useful opportunity to ‘look under the hood’ of the Cwm Taf approach.
The winter of 2012-13 was the turning point for staff in Cwm Taf – they decided they would work together to make sure that things were better in future.
They reviewed the way their organisation works when it is under pressure, created hospital-based heads of nursing and developed clinical engagement through a perfect fortnight exercise.
The use of patient stories, a hospital dashboard on the front page of the intranet and working to an expected date of discharge have been key enablers. There has been impressive use of measurement for improvement alongside co-ordinated improvement actions.
When describing this work the staff in Cwm Taff admit it has not all been plain sailing, but none of them would choose to go back to the way things were before.
Indeed NHS Wales Awards judges praised the ‘Focus on Flow’ project for its determined approach to identifying delays in the healthcare system and findings ways to overcome them.
In fact Penny Pereira, Assistant Director for Patient Safety at The Health Foundation, who judged this award, said that the work added up to the holy grail – a culture of joined up improvement making a difference to patient safety across health and social care.
Grant Robinson is the Lead for the Unscheduled Care Improvement programme in Wales
Further information about The Patient Flow Programme delivered by 1000 Lives Improvement can be found online.