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Nurse wins award for IBD helpline that saves appointments

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A nurse has received a national award for her work in developing two innovative helplines for patients with inflammatory bowel disease.

Shirley James, a gastrointestinal advanced nurse practitioner at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, has overseen the introduction of both an urgent and non-urgent phone number to ensure patients have immediate access to specialist advice and support.

“It has been a valuable contribution to improving access and delivery of services to patients with IBD”

Sarah Needle

The project began in 2005 and uptake among patients continues to grow, said the trust. Last year, calls were up 32% on 2012 at 1,600 – preventing the need for an additional 785 outpatient appointments over the 12 months.

Ms James has now received a £500 nurse education grant at the national Dr Falk Pharma/Core Awards in recognition of the project’s success.

She said: “Back in 2005 it was becoming clear that IBD patients were struggling to find appropriate outpatient help and advice when they needed it.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust

Shirley James

“Whether they had simple concerns or were in the middle of a disease flare up, their outpatient access to advice was via the consultant’s secretary, who would usually make them a hospital appointment,” she said.

“This was neither efficient nor particularly effective and the IBD team quickly identified that there was a genuine need for a specialist helpline,” she added.

The system has now been shared with other chronic disease nursing teams in hospitals across the country to develop similar projects and improve access to clinical support.

Sarah Needle, the trust’s former matron for gastroenterology, said: “Innovations like the IBD helpline ensure that patients are able to access care and advice by the appropriate healthcare professionals in an easy and timely manner.

“Shirley and the team have worked hard to ensure the helpline continues to be delivered even in times when staffing has been challenging and it has been a valuable contribution to improving access and delivery of services to patients with IBD,” she added.

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