South London mental health trust benefited from Consultant Connect service

A leading South London mental health trust is improving physical care outcomes for patients thanks to an initiative that connects GPs to consultants. 

The Consultant Connect scheme enabled clinicians at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) to seek advice and guidance from colleagues at Guy’s, St Thomas’s, King’s College and Lewisham hospitals more than 650 times in the last year.

Phones, tablets and an app became an extra way to connect clinicians and specialists. In two-thirds of cases, the call with a specialist meant the SLaM clinician could treat their patient’s physical condition without the need for a hospital referral – vital during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mentally ill people have worse physical health than the general population, resulting in reduced life expectancy of between 15 and 20 years. 

The Consultant Connect system is widely used across the NHS. GPs and doctors in other settings have instant access to preliminary advice from specialists, often avoiding the need for referrals or emergency admissions.

SLaM is the first mental health provider to use the service for mental health to physical health secondary access. Trust clinicians can contact hospital doctors in more than 80 specialties – with around half the calls made to specialists in diabetes, endocrinology or cardiology.

The Trust was preparing to trial the partnership on one ward early last year but accelerated and expanded the plans in response to the pandemic. It introduced the scheme across its 40-plus wards and home treatment teams simultaneously. 

Jonathan Patrick, CEO of Consultant Connect, said: “It’s fantastic to have seen how useful South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust found our service. It’s the first time our advice and guidance offer has been used to link mental health inpatients with physical health services. It was more vital than ever during a pandemic to avoid unnecessary referrals, so it’s extremely encouraging that two-thirds of calls didn’t end in referrals.”

Ray McGrath, lead nurse with SLaM’s Integrating our Mental and Physical Healthcare Systems Project, says: “Acute hospital are difficult settings to care for patients in mental health crisis. During the Covid19 pandemic the potential of Consultant Connect really began to shine through because it became really important to avoid unnecessary transfers between hospitals due to increased infection risk.”

The initiative is part of the Integrating our Mental and Physical Healthcare Systems (IMPHS) project, funded with a grant from the Maudsley Charity. The IMPHS project has also funded the pilot of a weekly virtual physical health clinic for inpatients. The clinic provides virtual appointments with a consultant from King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust via phone, email or video.

For more information or to speak with Jonathan Patrick or Ray McGrath, please contact dan@harpswood.com or lawrence@harpswood.com

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