Patients, stakeholders and staff from across Surrey Heartlands came together on March 8 for an innovative workshop to examine how the traditional model of outpatients could be re-designed to meet modern-day expectations.

The workshop was organised by the Academy and held in conjunction with the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal Academy of Engineering.

It followed on from the publication of a report by the RCP last November – ‘Outpatients: the future – adding value through sustainability’ –  which found that the traditional model of outpatient care is no longer fit for purpose.

Speaking at the start of the workshop, the Academy’s Executive Clinical Director, Mark Hamilton, urged delegates to “Be brave and think big.” He said: “We have a great opportunity to transform outpatients into something more patient-centred and we’re very lucky to be working with the RCP on this project.”

John Dean, RCP Clinical Director for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, added: “The aim of the workshop is to understand the outpatients’ system within Surrey Heartlands, understand the needs of local people and look at the opportunities for redesign and improvement for the future. The RCP has been working with the Royal College of Engineering to use a systems engineering approach to projects, and this is the method we’ll be using to redesign outpatients.”

The delegates worked in five facilitated groups defining the purpose of outpatients and then looking at different patient scenarios, the purpose of outpatients for these patients and suggestions for how the service could better meet patients’ needs.

One of these ‘patients’ was Margaret, an 82-year-old diabetic with multiple co-morbidities and a carer for her husband who has dementia. Another was 46-year-old Geoff, who has Crohn’s disease and who travels a lot for his busy job.

Some of the suggestions for improvements from delegates included standardising technology; a simplified system for ‘simple’ cases; quick, electronic referrals and appointments via video conferencing where appropriate.

All the ideas from the groups will be collated by the RCP and used to produce a report on the event, which will be shared in April.

Speaking at the close, Mark Hamilton said: “We’ve made a really good start today and it’s been great to see the Surrey Heartlands system coming together for this work. It’s a really good opportunity for us to make a difference.”

Added Linda Roberts, a Surrey Heartlands GP: “I’ve been really enthused by everyone’s input and energy today and hopeful that we can make a change. We really need to do this.”

Read the RCP report at www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/outpatients-future-adding-value-through-sustainability