Dr Phil Hammond, broadcaster and GP turned hospital doctor

I was recently privileged to be shown round Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham by Chief Executive, Dame Julie Moore, and Medical Director, Dr Dave Rosser. It combines fantastic buildings and facilities with strong leadership, motivated staff, and cutting-edge information technology. Particularly impressive is a computer system that monitors and reminds staff to give patients drugs, and checks on correct doses, interactions, and side-effects. The same system also monitors infection prevention, vital observations, patient experience, and falls prevention assessments. The staff feel supported and safe (and can prove as much at appraisals), and the trust can quickly identify poor performance. If you don’t like being monitored for quality and safety, you can’t work there.

Every ward has real-time access to key safety indicators, to compare with other wards in the hospital and with national benchmarks. I was shown the control panel on each ward that quickly identifies patients who have missed doses of medication or key assessments. When the hospital first introduced the new system, they saw a 17% fall in deaths among emergency patients over 12 months. If the entire NHS was using such a sophisticated system, 16,000 deaths a year could be prevented in England alone. What’s even more impressive is that all this information is available to patients, even before they come into hospital.

From the hospital’s main webpage, www.uhb.nhs.uk, you can click on to mystay@QEHB. Whether you’re booked to come into the hospital, or are considering choosing it, you can browse every specialty and see photos of the key personnel, with descriptions of what they do and how often they do it. You can then click on an icon of the key patient safety indicators to see how each specialty measures up.

What they don’t have yet, but surely will soon, is comparative outcomes for individual surgical procedures. They monitor everything in Birmingham, to benchmark themselves against the best in the NHS. And in doing so, they are becoming the best in the NHS.

The trust also has a myhealth@QEHB portal. This means patients receiving long-term care can remotely access much of the clinical information held about them at the hospital, including letters and laboratory results. Patients can submit information directly to their consultants, who can see updates instantly and respond as necessary. Patients can also use the system to store and share files about their health, appointments at and away from the hospital, and to receive reminders.

There is also a support network so patients can interact with fellow patients for help, advice, or friendship. They can chat, start journals about their health, post public information, and view other patients’ news feeds. It’s as if the NHS has finally moved in to the 21st century.

And if that isn’t enough innovation, the trust has just started a supported recovery service at home. Patients remain under the care of a hospital consultant but receive day-to-day treatment from a team of healthcare professionals who travel to the patient’s home. The team includes qualified nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and healthcare support workers. For patients who are able and desperate to get home, but need extra support when they get there, this is a wonderful service. It also saves money.

Looking around Birmingham, you can’t help thinking that such a well-run hospital should be extending its excellent management and innovation to all areas of healthcare. Many GPs would relish working with such a forward-thinking trust, sharing information in real time to ensure patients get the right care at the right time, in the right place. Having travelled around the NHS, I would say there are some hospitals that are simply a lot better than others. If you’re lucky enough to live near one, stick with it. How far patients are prepared to travel to get great care when the word gets out, remains to be seen. G