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Flagging system to alert healthcare staff of specific patient needs could improve care and experience

Flagging system to alert healthcare staff of specific patient needs could improve care and experience
By Awil Mohamoud Reporter
18 June 2020

A flagging system which alerts healthcare staff if a patient has an impairment and has specific needs could lead to a better level of care and overall experience, findings from a pilot study suggest. 

Flags on a system would notify care providers of things such as communication requirements, including how a patient should be contracted for appointments, or how the environment could be adapted, for instance, by playing particular music to help reduce anxiety. 

NHS Digital introduced the Reasonable Adjustment Flag system into Gloucestershire and Devon GP surgeries, hospitals and other care settings as part of a pilot, which ended in March after 10 months. 

Clinicians, patients and their carers together created more than 70 flags to help better communicate and accommodate those needs. 

The results of the trial, which come during Learning Disability Week, show many of the adjustments made ‘could positively affect the experience and outcomes for patients and the experiences of carers and staff’. It is estimated that around 1.5 million people could benefit from reasonable adjustments.

Sharing key impairment and adjustment information using the system would be valuable for a range of patients with different needs. This includes those with a learning disability and autism, dementia, physical or sensory disabilities, mental health conditions and those receiving palliative care at the end of their lives, said Dr Iain Jarvis, a GP with a special interest in learning disabilities who works at Aspen Medical Practice in Gloucester. 

Bev Farrar, Learning Disability Liaison Nurse at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: ‘Being able to access the Reasonable Adjustment Flag means that we can get it right for our patients and we have had really positive feedback on it so far.

‘The flag also promotes confidence in our healthcare team as it provides useful information about how to best interact with our patients as individuals. Recently we were able to make a reasonable adjustment for a patient to have his appointment details texted to him and this helped him to attend.’

During the trial, staff were able to create, access and update information on the NHS Spine using the Summary Care Record application (SCRa). In the long-term, clinical and screening systems will integrate so that staff will be able to see it on their screens in their own systems when they search for a patient, NHS Digital said. 

Further development and testing is now taking place, and the system is expected to be ‘more widely available’ from the end of the year.

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