VIRTUAL clinics for patients with suspected fractures are set to be launched at a health trust in Teesside.
The new initiative at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust will allow patients to manage their broken bones safely at home while cutting clinic waiting times for those that need to return to hospital.
Currently, patients suffering suspected fractures attend urgent or emergency care for an x-ray and initial treatment. If there is a break, the patient returns to the fracture clinic the following day for assessment to decide if they need specialist treatment or can be discharged.
The new virtual fracture clinic means patients with certain conditions can be sent home from urgent or emergency care with information leaflets and advice from specially-trained staff.
They then receive a telephone call from a member of the orthopaedic team who has reviewed their scans and will discuss with them whether they need to come in for further treatment or if they can manage the injury at home.
Patients who are recommended for treatment at home will still be able to come in for an appointment if they choose and can call a dedicated helpline for patients to call if they have any queries or concerns.
The clinics will start on Monday, 17 September.
Richard Jeavons is consultant orthopaedic surgeon who runs clinics in orthopaedic outpatient departments at both the University Hospital of Hartlepool and University Hospital of North Tees.
He said: “There is a lot of demand for appointments in the fracture clinic. Patients can often face long waits before they are seen by a clinician, who may only need to give advice on how the patient can care for the fracture themselves at home.
“The virtual will be just as safe and effective for patients while also helping reduce demand on hospital services.
“In addition – considering the pain and mobility problems patients are likely to be experiencing, it is obviously a huge benefit if they are able to manage their treatment safely and effectively at home.
“It will benefit patients who will be getting the right treatment in the right place. Staff will benefit by having more time to treat patients and the trust will make very clear financial savings by improving appointment start times, reducing travel costs for staff and so on.”
The programme was first piloted by Glasgow Royal Infirmary, which saw a significant reduction in footfall to the fracture clinic while maintaining recovery times. The programme has since been adopted by several NHS trusts throughout the country.