City nurse wins award for developing inflammatory bowel disease helplines

Shirley JamesA nurse based at Southampton’s teaching hospitals has received a national award for her work in developing two innovative helplines for patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Shirley James, a gastrointestinal advanced nurse practitioner at Southampton General Hospital, has overseen the introduction of urgent and non-urgent phone numbers to ensure patients have immediate access to the specialist advice and support they need.

Although the project began in 2005, uptake among patients continues to grow and, last year, calls were up 32% on 2012 at 1,600 – preventing the need for an additional 785 outpatient appointments over the 12 months.

“Back in 2005 it was becoming clear that IBD patients were struggling to find appropriate outpatient help and advice when they needed it,” explained Ms James, who recently received a £500 nurse education grant at the national Dr Falk Pharma/Core Awards in recognition of the project’s success.

“Whether they had simple concerns or were in the middle of a disease flare up, their outpatient access to advice was via the consultant’s secretary, who would usually make them a hospital appointment.

“This was neither efficient nor particularly effective and the IBD team quickly identified that there was a genuine need for a specialist helpline which could offer patient-orientated advice and support.”

The system, which consistently receives more than 90% positive feedback from patients for urgent and non-urgent calls, has now been shared with other chronic disease nursing teams in hospitals across the country to develop similar projects and improve access to clinical support.

Sarah Needle, former matron for gastroenterology, added: “Innovations like the IBD helpline ensure that patients are able to access care and advice by the appropriate healthcare professionals in an easy and timely manner.

“In an economic climate where there is a need to continually improve the quality of services to patients as well as reduce costs, including unnecessary admissions, this service provides an efficient means by which to deliver healthcare.

“Shirley and the team have worked hard to ensure the helpline continues to be delivered even in times when staffing has been challenging and it has been a valuable contribution to improving access and delivery of services to patients with IBD.”

Posted on Monday 13 October 2014