Welcome to Outpatients - the hospital’s shop window

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THERE are dozens of departments and teams at the DGH who are experts in specific fields.

There is one part of the hospital, however, which specialises at being adept at tackling almost every condition under the sun. The outpatients team, you see, works round the clock to underpin a lot of what goes on elsewhere at the Trust. And doesn’t it do well.

Nicola Booth, the matron at outpatients, led a guided tour of the department and it is quickly apparent that outpatients itself represents a microcosm of the hospital at large.

Every wall has expert advice on a range of conditions, from quitting smoking to bowel problems, from cancer support to diet advice.

Once they have a patient in, it seems, they don’t want them to leave until a host of messages have hit home.

“This is the shop window of the hospital,” reveals Ms Booth. “A large percentage of people coming to the DGH will come through outpatients at one time or another so it is important we are at the top of our game.

“We work towards getting everyone seen within 30 minutes of their arrival. We cannot always achieve that so we try and keep people as informed as possible about any delays.”

She isn’t joking. As well as airport lounge style screens that tell people how far behind different areas are running the team have embraced technology to make sure patients are not left sat counting the minutes in a waiting room.

Staff used to hand out pagers to people so they could leave and come back nearer to when their appointment would take place.

Now they take mobile numbers and offer to ring people and let them know when they need to head back, be it from the shops or just sat outside in the sun rather than indoors.

Everything is designed to make the patient experience as comfortable as possible.

And, as Ms Booth explained, that includes scheduling things so people do not have to make repeat trips to the DGH.

“We try and make sure that people who may require different tests, or to see different people, can do so on the same day.

“It means they do not have the hassle of coming back but also, from a medical point of view, means they are waiting less time for results and therefore starting any potential treatment sooner.”

That is particularly true for cancer patients, with strict targets to be met on the time taken to be seen which start at the first time a patient presents themself to their GP.

Ms Booth is rightly proud of her team’s achievements, with the overwhelming majority of people working through the system with time to spare.

But, as she is the first to admit, it isn’t always easy.

“We have a lot of clinics running here for various conditions and it is sometimes difficult accommodating them all during the day.

“We have started running evening sessions and weekend clinics to keep on top of things and make sure targets for patient are met.”

Clearly, in outpatients, the first priority is the patients and their wellbeing. And that does not just mean physically.

But, as Ms Booth is keen to point out, patients can give the staff a helping hand.

“One of the biggest things we have to deal with is people not turning up for appointments but not cancelling them beforehand.

“It is really important people do turn up if they have a slot. They have the appointment for a medical reason so it is always sensible to go. But, if people are not going to turn up please let us know. If you aren’t coming, tell us, we can always give that appointment to somebody else.”