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Innovative Virtual Fracture Clinic Launches At Leighton Hospital

Virtual Fracture Clinic (VFC)
Pictured: Mr David Miller and Mr Nick Boyce-Cam, Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeons, at the first Virtual Fracture Clinic

27 November 2017

Local fracture patients are set to benefit from fewer hospital visits and shorter waiting times following the arrival of a new virtual clinic.

The innovative scheme has launched at Crewe’s Leighton Hospital and will improve care whilst cutting the number of times patients have to visit the hospital for an appointment.

Before the project started, all patients seen at the hospital’s Emergency Department with a fracture, suspected fracture or a soft-tissue injury would have been referred to the fracture clinic for an assessment. However, as specific injuries heal without the need for medical intervention, this face-to-face appointment is not often needed.

The Virtual Fracture Clinic was developed by Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Orthopaedic department and IT team to streamline the process and ensure only those who need an appointment are given one.

When patients now attend Leighton Hospital’s Emergency Department or the Minor Injuries Unit at Northwich’s Victoria Infirmary their injury is initially treated by immobilising it with an appropriate splint, plaster cast or sling.

Those who require orthopaedic review are then booked onto a Virtual Fracture Clinic rather than automatically attending a traditional one.

Here, x-rays and patient notes are reviewed ‘virtually’ by an Orthopaedic consultant and specialist nurses who decide the next step of their care. 

An experienced orthopaedic nurse contacts each patient by phone to discuss the outcome of the review. Where needed, an orthopaedic fracture clinic appointment is arranged to ensure the patient is seen by the correct specialist, at the correct time interval from their injury and with any necessary further x-rays or imaging.

For simple fractures, specific advice is offered and information leaflets provided explaining the self-care of their injury. Patients are also given a contact number for the virtual clinic, which can be used if the patient or their family has any concerns.

Mr Nick Boyce Cam, Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon, said: “We developed this project to help improve the patient experience and care provided following an injury. 

“The Virtual Fracture Clinic allows us to assess the patient much sooner than was previously possible and ensure early on that they have the correct treatment.

“This is hugely beneficial for the patient and is more efficient as it frees up time for staff in the hospital. The Virtual Fracture Clinic also has the added benefit of cutting down on costs and so everyone is benefitting.”

The Virtual Fracture Clinic model was first introduced by the Orthopaedic department at Glasgow’s Royal Infirmary where it has led to a significant reduction in the number of unnecessary patient appointments. It has also received a number of awards, including a Health Service Journal Award (HSJ) for Acute Sector Innovation. 

It is expected that Leighton Hospital’s Virtual Fracture Clinic will be able to assess up to 30 patients an hour and will be met with a similar success, leading to a 25-30% reduction in unnecessary outpatient attendances.

Mid Cheshire Hospitals selected Bluespier software to support the new model, having been impressed with the work the company completed on the pioneering virtual clinic with Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Stuart van Rooyen, Managing Director of Bluespier, said: “We are really delighted with the Virtual Fracture Clinic project and our ongoing relationship with the clinical and IT teams at the Trust, who drove the initiative from the very start. 

“Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust consistently champions digital innovation within healthcare and for us, as a systems provider, the Virtual Fracture Clinic model is a shining example of how process changes underpinned by excellent software can effectively transform patient care delivery.”

Tracy Bullock, Chief Executive of Mid Cheshire Hospitals, added: “The Virtual Fracture Clinic is just one example of the modern and innovative things we are doing to ensure that patients receive the right care in the right place and at the right time.

“The project has led to a more simplified process for both our patients and staff and will benefit the local population for years to come. I’d therefore like to thank, and congratulate, the teams involved for bringing the Virtual Fracture Clinic to the Trust.”