The introduction of a new way to access bone density x-rays now enables patients to be referred directly from the GP surgery to hospital to have an x-ray more quickly.
The South Eastern Local Commissioning Group (LCG) recently invested in the new system where patients can be immediately referred to the DEXA scanning service at Bangor Hospital.
A DEXA scanner is similar to an x-ray scanner. It measures the density of bones in order to determine a patient’s bone strength. Low density and weak bones may be an early indicator of osteoporosis particularly in woman and weak bones are more susceptible to fractures.
The major benefits are quicker diagnosis and treatment, preventing more serious fractures in the longer term. It also means a reduction in those referred to the Emergency Department for urgent x-rays and reducing pressures that can be present there.
Welcoming the new service, Dr Michael Steele, GP and South Eastern LCG member, said:
“Enabling direct access to DEXA scanning provides an enhanced service to patients in the North Down and Ards communities and supports GPs in providing more local services. It will also release consultant time for direct patient care in rheumatology, thereby reducing waiting times for diagnosis and outpatient appointments.”
Around 600 patients have received DEXA scanning at Bangor Hospital and it is expected that 90% of current patient referrals made through the Ulster Hospital Rheumatologists will now also become direct referrals to the DEXA service.
The system will be piloted until March 2015 and, pending a successful evaluation, it is intended that the service will be rolled out across the South Eastern area.
This is the latest in a series of initiatives by South Eastern LCG to improve patient access to services.
Paul Turley, the Commissioning Lead for the South Eastern LCG said he is pleased with the new system,
“We are pleased with the efforts GPs have made in the South Eastern area to generate savings which can now be invested into enhanced patient services. With an increased focus on managing prescribing, there will undoubtedly be further opportunities to work with GPs on other local service developments.”
Another area which has also benefitted from the new successful referral system is the Northern area. In April 2013, the Northern Trust’s Radiology Department in partnership with the Northern LCG also introduced a GP DEXA scanning service. The service has proved highly successful with referrals increasing from 776 in 2013 to a total of 1,741 in 2014.
In addition, in November 2012, the Northern LCG, in partnership with the Northern Trust and GPs, introduced a rapid reporting of x-rays service for small bone fractures and chest x-rays. Patients who meet the clinical criteria have direct walk in access to their local x-ray department with their GP receiving results the same day. This service as also proved very beneficial with referrals increasing from 1,478 in 2012 to 4,356 in 2014.
Without this initiative, many of these patients would have gone to Emergency Departments for further investigation or management of their condition.
These two initiatives where patients will benefit greatly from quicker referrals are amongst a variety of direct access services which have been introduced by the LCG working in partnership with the Trust and GPs, and continue to be supported through Integrated Care Partnerships in the Northern area.
Laurence O’Kane, Chair of the Northern LCG added:
“These initiatives demonstrate how local commissioning, working in partnership with local stakeholders, can work to improve patient pathways across many different services. The Northern LCG is delighted with the success of these direct access services particularly as the patients benefit from shorter waiting times and do not have to access Emergency Departments or outpatients in order to be referred.”