A new service for rheumatology patients is being introduced by University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) to allow them to receive support when they require it.

The Patient Initiated Follow Up Service has been specifically designed for patients with stable long-term conditions to allow them to access clinical teams as and when they have a flare up of their condition.

Patients identified suitable for this service will be given a leaflet and card. They will also be educated in the management of their condition and how to access the Patient Initiated Follow Up service.

The service, which launched on  February 6th, will reduce unnecessary visits to hospital, reduce patient waiting times and release the clinical teams to see more patients in a timely manner.

The service will be assessing patient experience as we go along. Suzanne Lofthouse, Clinical Service Manager for Rheumatology, UHMBT, said: “We are excited to be the first service to go live with this innovative approach, putting patients in control of their long- term condition and their follow up care”.

Patients can gain access to the new service if they need additional support to manage their condition from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and they will be contacted with appropriate advice.

Jacqui Pickles, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, UHMBT, said: “Patient initiated follow ups put the patient in control of any further appointments they have. Research has shown that having a regular outpatient follow up does not help prevent patients’ conditions returning or identify new problems. In fact, many people find the follow up visits to the hospital cause a lot of unnecessary anxiety. “The new service will provide patients with direct access to the clinical team when they most need it. For all other concerns, or if patients are feeling unwell, their GP remains their first point of contact.”

The service has been developed as part of the Better Care Together strategy and following the pilot with rheumatology, there are plans to introduce it to patients with other conditions.

Better Care Together is the clinically led strategy for ensuring health and care services across Morecambe Bay can remain safe, are of a consistently high standard, and can be financially sustained not just for the next five years, but well into the future.