High profile delegation from Middle East visits Airedale GP Practice and hospital

A prestigious delegation from the Middle East made a trip to Airedale to find out more about how hospital and primary care systems are being used in the UK.

The 12 delegates included ministers and senior government officials in the field of health economy, education and information technology and from Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates.

They were representing the Gulf Cooperation Council and looking at potential investments in seamless systems linking primary to hospital care which improve the patient experience.

The delegation was met by Bridget Fletcher, chief executive of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Andrew Catto, executive medical director and Dr Richard Pope, consultant.

They were visiting Airedale as a flagship hospital for how it uses technology to improve care for patients including telemedicine and a patient administration system (PAS) that allows a single patient record to be shared between primary, secondary and social care professionals. It means that clinicians across the health community have access to information about their patients electronically, which is a step closer to the vision of a shared electronic patient record (EPR) and is already proving to be beneficial for the patients by providing safer and quicker care.

The delegation also visited the hospital’s Telehealth hub which uses the latest video conferencing technology to connect patients and staff, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days- a-week, to specialist medical care at the touch of a button. They had the chance to speak to a resident live on screen about the benefits of being able to get urgent medical help from hospital consultants without having to leave the comfort of their own home.

Dr Richard Pope, consultant in diabetic medicine at Airedale Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, has worked extensively on electronic health records for 13 years and is now developing IT supported self care services for people with long term conditions. He also leads on delivering teleconsultation support to people at their own homes and residents in a range of long term care settings.

Dr Pope said: "The delegation came to see how the NHS is addressing the challenges of the increasing number of people with long term conditions and Airedale is a typical district hospital facing these challenges.

“We shared with the group our new ways of working using technology to try and keep people out of hospital and care for them in their own homes.”

They also visited The Ridge Medical Centre on Cousen Road, Bradford, which is part of Bradford Districts Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to look at the interaction between primary and secondary care and referral systems. The practice is an early-adopter of technology-led innovations in providing healthcare and has been building robust, electronic, patient records and making paper flows obsolete since the early 1990s.

In June 2006, the practice started to use TPP’s SystmOne product which has helped them to lead the way in delivering integrated clinical care which transcends organisational boundaries in the NHS.

With the help of a volunteer patient with two long-term conditions, Drs John and Anne Connolly demonstrated to the delegation how primary care services and the interface between primary care and secondary care can be re-designed by using leading-edge technology to deliver seamless, efficient care and to improve patient experience.

Dr John Connolly, a GP at The Ridge Practice for more than 20 years, has helped to encourage clinical teams across the district to exploit shared electronic records where this can improve safety and quality. He now works part-time as clinical lead at TPP.

Dr Connolly said: "This visit was a great opportunity to explain the pressure which the NHS is under at the moment. We demonstrated how technology developments are being embraced by clinicians on the frontline to rise to the challenge to relieve the strain on emergency services and support the development of integrated care for patients with long term conditions."