New NHS report calls for more proactive Crohn’s and Colitis care

09 November 2021

Last week saw the launch of NHS England and Improvement’s Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) report on gastroenterology services. Ruth Wakeman, our Director of Services, Advocacy & Evidence, spoke at the virtual event, welcoming the report’s call for more proactive Crohn’s and Colitis care and more IBD nurse specialists. 

Getting It Right First Time (GIRFT) is a national programme designed to improve the treatment and care of patients through in-depth review of services, benchmarking, and presenting a data-driven evidence base to support change.

The new national report written by GIRFT Clinical Lead and consultant gastroenterologist, Dr Beverley Oates, offers NHS services practical solutions for improving care and reducing NHS waits created by COVID-19. Sharing her views on the potential impact of the report, Ruth told over 300 clinicians and NHS leaders, that people with IBD are waiting too long for diagnosis, she pressed for better joint working between GP and hospital teams and highlighted the need for more dieticians and psychologists in IBD services.

My greatest hope is that GIRFT will provide further impetus for all those involved in gastroenterology and its different subspecialties, disciplines, and settings, to work shoulder to shoulder to deliver solutions and improvements that will enhance the experience and outcomes for patients. 

Professor Tim Briggs CBE, GIRFT Programme Chair and National Director of Clinical Improvement for the NHSEI, quoted in the GIRFT report

To write the report Dr Oates and her team visited all 129 NHS trusts in England providing gastroenterology services, examined hospital data, and surveyed IBD teams. Crohn’s & Colitis UK shared the findings of the IBD UK Report ‘Crohn’s and Colitis Care in the UK’ and examples of best practice with the GIRFT team to add the perspective of people with Crohn’s and Colitis. The final report includes more than 20 examples of best practice seen by the team, including IBD services in Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. The report calls for:

  • More proactive management for patients with IBD: The report argues that this will help enable earlier diagnosis and better management of flare-ups, as well as reducing emergency admissions and the need for surgery. Proactive IBD services may include prioritisation of suspected IBD referrals, better access to IBD specialist nurse helplines and flare clinics, which can help patients to deal with flare-ups at home or with GP support.
  • More six- and seven-day services and extended hours, to be able to see more patients.
  • Better triage (teams of clinicians tasked with deciding the order of treatment) to help streamline referrals: Early specialist triage will ensure the most urgent patients are seen first and identify those who no longer need to attend hospital, which will reduce waiting times for those that do. 
  • Closer working with primary care colleagues to improve awareness of services that allow patients to better self-manage their condition.

Given the significant pressures on capacity, now exacerbated by COVID-19, it is essential we have early specialist triage of referrals for gastroenterology opinions and endoscopy procedures to appropriately prioritise patients, ensure correct care first time and avoid unnecessary appointments and procedures. This will help us increase productivity at the same time as putting the safety of our patients and the quality of our healthcare provision first.

Dr Beverly Oates has been a Consultant Physician and Gastroenterologist at Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (WUTH), quoted in the GIRFT report

Download the full report here.

A recorded video of the webinar will be uploaded shortly and can be viewed on the GIRFT website.