2019 Outpatients project – Results published

We are pleased to announce the publication of the 2019 Outpatients findings. All 2019 participating organisations have now received their bespoke report. A high-level report outlining key messages nationally and online toolkit for this year’s benchmarking project are now available to access via the members’ area.

Providing comprehensive data and insight into the delivery of Outpatients services, the 2019 project is the Network’s third iteration and received data from 137 submissions, 129 NHS organisations across England and Wales.

The Outpatients project aims to provide benchmarked analytics across all Outpatient departments. The project includes profiling of service models, access and availability, activity, workforce, finance and quality. Specific deep-dive areas include referral and clinic management, appointment slot issues, IT systems and overdue follow-ups.

The Outpatients project has been delivered in collaboration with the GIRFT Outpatient workstream, and data from the project will be used to support the deep dive GIRFT data packs. As with last year, consent has been sought from all participants in England to share the data with the GIRFT team. For organisations that consent, the data will be sent to the GIRFT team by the 18th October 2019.

The NHS Long Term Plan (LTP), published in January 2019, sets out the vision of NHS service transformation within the next 10 years. Outpatients service redesign is a significant part of the ten-year plan, with traditional models being reviewed to offer virtual outpatient appointments. The LTP stated that the ‘traditional model of outpatients is outdated and unsustainable’, and ‘outpatient services will be fundamentally redesigned’. The project provides a baseline for the current structure and management of outpatient departments, which can be monitored for change as organisations enter a period of radical transformation.

Key findings from the 2019 project include:

  • DNA’s are reported to cost the NHS £1 billion, so it is an important challenge for trusts to keep this rate as low as possible. The average DNA rate was recorded as 8% for 2018/19, a reduction from the average of 8.4% in 2017/18.

  • The Long Term Plan set out the target of reducing outpatient face to face attendances by a third, in 2018/19, 3% of first and 4% of follow up attendances were virtual, and most ‘virtual’ appointments are by telephone, demonstrating the scale of the challenge set out in the LTP.

  • Communication with primary care is extremely important for the ongoing care of the patient. 82% of clinic letters were sent to the patient as well as the patient’s GP in 2018/19, which was the same in 2018/19 (83%). In the recently published Royal College of Physicians report (Outpatients: The Future, 2018), it states that letters summarising clinical encounters should be primarily addressed to the patient, with community healthcare copied in.

Further findings from this year’s project will be presented at tomorrow’s National Findings and Good Practice Conference, taking place in London. Follow the event using #NHSBNOutpatients.

The Network would like to thank all participants for their hard work and to the many colleagues who have contributed to the project over the years. If you have any questions about the project, please contact Chris McAuley or Lucy Atherton of the NHS Benchmarking Network.