By Mark Spencer GP
My GP practice is in Fleetwood, Lancashire, and we have twelve thousand patients on our list. This is an area of high deprivation, with a significant prevalence of long-term conditions, especially those requiring hospitalisation
I’m also on the senior management team of the Blackpool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Whether I’ve got my GP or my hospital trust hat on, I’m keen to keep people supported at home or in the community. Our GP practice doesn’t have set targets, but there is a drive to reduce hospital admissions by 4-5 per cent per year – although the reality is that admissions are already increasing by that amount.
Spiral Health’s nurse-led rehabilitation unit in Bispham, which is local to us, is a new type of service which has the potential to offer GPs an alternative to hospital admissions. It reminds me of the good old days of community hospitals in that Spiral Health is reinventing something that worked well years ago. The difference is that they are doing it much better because they have made advances in the types of service they can offer within a community in-patient setting, such as a falls programme and even a bathing service for former patients who struggle to take baths at home.
Patients can be referred to the unit by GPs for rest, recovery and rehabilitation, if that isn’t possible at home, or they can be referred there by the local acute hospital, to recover from illness or major surgery. In both cases, the bottom line is that patients are kept out of acute wards, or at least time in the acute setting is kept to a minimum.
From my point of view, Spiral health has some distinct selling points. First, I like the organisational set-up. As a social enterprise, they are wholly owned by the people who work there and this means that staff have a vested interest in providing a superior level of service delivery. That’s a fantastic model for ensuring that patient care and dignity is at the very top of the agenda. I just can’t imagine that anything like the Mid Staffs scandal could ever occur within this model.
Another selling point is their pioneering approach to patient care. At the Bispham unit, patients aren’t just treated for physical conditions – their social and psychological wellbeing is taken into account too. This holistic approach is based on the simple principle that all patients must be seen as real people not just medical conditions to be fixed. This isn’t just a case of Parkinson’s or COPD, this is a person with a unique take on life. By understanding what is important to people and how they wish to be treated, staff are able to treat every single patient as a unique individual.
To provide a structure for this approach to patient care, staff worked with personalisation experts Helen Sanderson Associates to develop a patient-centred journey. This ensures that at every point of their stay, what matters to patients is put first. This approach is starting to get national recognition, with Spiral Health shortlisted for two major healthcare awards this year.
The final selling point is the financial one. The average length of inpatient stay for rehabilitation at our local acute hospital, without Spiral Health’s intervention, is 28 days. With Spiral Health’s intervention it is 14 days, testament to the success of the unit’s fully personalised care plans, which encompass both physical and emotional well-being. The cost difference per year is a massive £2.7m.
To my knowledge there are no other providers in the North West offering this type of service. Perhaps there should be. One hundred per cent of Spiral Health’s patients would recommend this service to their friends and family and you can’t argue with that.