The judges assess the standard of this year’s entries and give advice on entering projects for next year’s Awards

This year, for the third year running, the Guidelines in Practice Awards attracted more – and higher quality – submissions. There were more than 100 entries from GPs and other healthcare professionals involved in implementing national guidance in the NHS.

There were four sponsored categories this year: the NSF for Coronary Heart Disease, sponsored by Pfizer; the NSF for Older People, Schwarz Pharma; the BHS guidelines for hypertension, Sanofi Aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb; and national guidelines for referral of patients with breast problems, Pfizer Oncology.

The Guidelines in Practice Award for best overall project was won by a team led by Dr Lesley Holdsworth from NHS Forth Valley, for their innovative project to improve the management of adults with epilepsy. The quality of all the finalists’ entries was high. However, this imaginative and forward-thinking project stood out from the rest.

This multidisciplinary team developed a guideline based on SIGN guideline 70 and a Scottish quality initiative. Educational events, some involving patients, ensured that healthcare professionals had the skills they needed to implement the guidance fully. Re-audit has demonstrated a significant improvement in quality indicators, which is being reflected in improved clinical practice.

This initiative has set the gold standard for epilepsy care. The team’s approach and comprehensive model is one to which we should all aspire.

They have demonstrated the advantages of strong team work in providing benefit to a group of patients who often do not receive the care they deserve.

This very successful project was carried out with modest funding, and it will put the practices involved in an ideal position to achieve maximum points in the epilepsy section of the new GMS contract. It is not surprising that it has received so much interest from healthcare teams in other areas.

Dr Holdsworth and colleagues’ entry is published in full here, and those of the two runners up will appear later this year. Full details of these and the other winners can be found in Awards News.

Now, however, it is time to start thinking about the fourth annual Awards, next year, and this year’s entries have highlighted some important points to bear in mind.

  • Establishing or redesigning a service or model of care, especially if a novel approach is taken, is important if overall patient care is to be improved, but you must show that it works.
  • Disseminating information and improving the knowledge and competency of healthcare professionals is something to aim for, but you must also demonstrate that you have put the improved skills into practice.
  • Prescribing reviews are an important component of good clinical care, but carrying out a desk-top audit and forgetting about the patient is far from ideal.
  • We make no apologies for repeating this piece of advice: keep it simple. Care pathways must not be too complicated, and it is essential to avoid a multi-agency project mushrooming and soaking up a huge amount of resources – at least, until it has been shown to be effective.

Finally, many of this year’s projects were only at the initial stages, with work in progress but showing lots of potential, so please continue with your good work and we look forward to receiving both new and updated entries next year. You may find our tips for success helpful in preparing your entry (see Box, below).

Judges' tips for success
  • Keep the project simple
  • Being innovative is important and will catch the judges’ attention
  • Ensure that any change in clinical practice will lead to an improvement in patient care
  • Set clear audit criteria and agreed standards
  • An educational component is important but not sufficient on its own
  • A multifaceted approach to implementation is the ideal
  • Re-audit your work to demonstrate that your intervention has been effective
  • Make sure that you re-audit the same parameters, so that they are directly comparable
  • Rolling audit programmes over a period of time which show a continuing improvement in patient care are always impressive

Guidelines in Practice, October 2004, Volume 7(10)
© 2004 MGP Ltd
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