Health chiefs across Hertfordshire aim to cut face-to-face hospital appointments by a third

The aim is included in reports submitted to a meeting of clinical commissioning groups

By Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 12:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 12:28 pm

Health chiefs across Hertfordshire and West Essex are aiming to reduce the number of face-to-face out-patient appointments by a third within two years.

The aim is included in reports submitted to a meeting of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) from across the region on Thursday, January 27.

It points to a strategy that will increase the ‘volume’ of patients on ‘patient initiated follow up’ – where patients arrange their own appointments when needed, rather than being offered routine follow-ups.

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And it aims to deliver one in four out-patient appointments – that’s 25 per cent – remotely.

It says it aims to increase efficiencies in out-patient services – and to agree clear principles “that enable the OP services and individual specialities to develop and deliver the required changes”.

Local health chiefs suggest that the approach will make it easier for patients to access face-to-face appointments when they need them – taking away the need to visit the clinic when they don’t.

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Following the joint meeting , Beverley Flowers, Deputy CEO for Herts Valleys, West Essex and East & North Hertfordshire CCGs, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “We are working with patients and clinicians to help put patients in control of the way they access outpatient follow-up care.

“For some people with a long-term condition, this could mean that they can reduce the time they spend attending routine hospital appointments at set times, with easier access to face-to-face specialist input when it’s needed instead – when they have a flare-up of symptoms for example.

“We know that for patients whose condition is stable, it is not always helpful to attend regular outpatient appointments.

“Sometimes these appointments do not result in any change to treatment plans, but they do require people to spend time and energy putting arrangements in place to attend their appointment.”

She also pointed to the use of online appointments as an alternative to face-to-face.

And she said: “The increasing use of digital technology also means that some consultations can take place online, when that’s right for a patient and their needs.”