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Scheme to support ‘high impact users’ of emergency departments in the West of England wins national patient safety award

Last updated: 21/09/2023

Members of the team are standing on the stage at the event holding up their HSJ Patient Safety Award trophy.

The West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) is a winner in the 2023 HSJ Patient Safety Awards for its work with local hospital trusts to improve outcomes for ‘high impact users’ of emergency departments.

The SHarED (Supporting High impact users in Emergency Departments) programme was named ‘Urgent and Emergency Care Safety Initiative of the Year’ at the awards ceremony on Monday night.

This innovative project was based on an approach first developed at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, and the AHSN supported its adoption by all seven emergency departments (EDs) across the West of England:

  • Bristol Royal Infirmary
  • Cheltenham General Hospital
  • Gloucestershire Royal Hospital
  • Great Western Hospital
  • Royal United Hospitals Bath
  • Southmead Hospital
  • Weston General Hospital.

In England, patients who attend EDs five or more times a year represent 2% of attendees but account for 11% of attendances. These patients are known as high impact users.

High impact users have often experienced extremely challenging situations in their lives. This can include violence, exploitation, alcohol and drug abuse, homelessness, chaotic life conditions, chronic pain, complex medical conditions, and mental health conditions.

The SHarED project supported ED teams to introduce personalised care plans for high impact users. These plans enabled staff to engage with patients about their behaviour and needs, provided recommendations on how to interact with and care for patients, and promoted collaboration between different specialist teams across the health and care system for more integrated care.

A recent evaluation of SHarED by NIHR ARC West showed it reduced ED attendance by 33% and hospital admissions by 67% among these patients. SHarED successfully promoted better and more integrated care for high impact users and gave practical support to staff working in very difficult environments.

Rebecca Thorpe, ED Consultant at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, led the development of the SHarED approach. Rebecca said:

“We’re delighted to have won this award. This project really highlights the success in promoting better and more integrated care for some of our most vulnerable users of emergency departments around the West of England. We saw fantastic collaboration between all five trusts involved, and working with NIHR ARC West to evaluate the project was so valuable – massive thanks to the whole team.”

A record-breaking 516 entries were received for the HSJ Patient Safety Awards 2023, with 206 organisations, projects and individuals making it to the final shortlist, following two rounds of rigorous judging. The high volume and exceptional quality of applications once again showcased the level of commitment to patient care within the UK’s healthcare networks.

The judging panel was made up of a diverse range of highly influential and respected figures within the healthcare community. All finalists and winners were judged set against three clear criteria: clinical and specialist excellence, enacting organisation-wide change, and service/system innovation.

Of the 24 categories, three were new for 2023, representing some of the recent initiatives and current focus areas within the NHS. These comprise the award for staff wellbeing initiative of the year, safety improvement through technology award and urgent and emergency care safety initiative of the year.

The Awards are a highlight of the HSJ’s annual two-day Patient Safety Congress (which this year took place on 18 and19 September at Manchester Central), where delegates working at the forefront of safety, quality and clinical excellence came together to join in with open and honest discussions about the current reality of safety.

Health Editor of the Sunday Times, Shaun Lintern who chaired the HSJ Patient Safety Congress said:

“As in previous years, the HSJ Patient Safety Awards ceremony formed a key part of our 2023 Congress and it’s always such an honour to be a position to congratulate all of the winners, which this year includes the West of England AHSN who scooped ‘top spot’ as the urgent and emergency care safety initiative of the year.

“The entire project - and everyone involved in its implementation - really reflects so much of what had been discussed and debated by our speakers and delegates during the 2023 Congress programme. It also clearly demonstrates the importance of everyone taking an active role in patient safety.”

The full list of winners and those highly commended for this year’s HSJ Patient Safety Awards can be found at www.awards.patientsafetycongress.co.uk/winners-2023.

For more information about SHarED visit: www.weahsn.net/shared/.