Exeter trusts set up new academy to help staff improve patient care and experience

The Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust (RD&E) and Devon Partnership NHS Trust (DPT) have won a national bid to set up a new academy in Devon to improve care for patients.

The Devon Flow Coaching Academy aims to better manage a patient’s journey or ‘flow’ through the healthcare system by streamlining and redesigning processes in a way that benefits them, their carers and staff. It is expected to begin its work in February 2018.

A patient’s experience of pathways of care, sometimes through different organisations, can be complex and involve multiple administrative blocks, repetition of key information and also potential harm. Changing these pathways is challenging but it can help ease delays, reduce the time patients spend in hospital and cut readmissions, resulting in better patient experience and higher quality care at a lower cost.

The Devon academy is part of the Health Foundation’s ‘Flow Coaching Academies’ programme and it was chosen to be one of only three such centres in the UK following a rigorous selection process.

This partnership between the RD&E and DPT will be the first of its kind to apply the programme’s principles across combined acute, community and mental health care pathways. The academy will build on existing joint RD&E/DPT work that uses ‘lean’ engineering principles to improve flow and productivity.

Professor Adrian Harris, Medical Director at the RD&E, said: “This is a great opportunity to develop our expertise on how we improve the often complex journeys that patients take through the healthcare system. We know that we can do more to simplify, streamline and make these journeys more efficient. This is important because this will be better for our patients both in terms of outcomes and also their experience. I know that staff will also welcome this.

“The aim is for our organisations to learn together and then to extend this approach to other NHS organisations who are part of the Devon Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP).”

Dr Helen Smith, Medical Director at DPT, said: “This is fantastic news for us and we are particularly pleased that our quality improvement (QI) capability and expertise has been recognised at the national level.  A mental health trust working in partnership with an acute and community hospital, to look at issues related to the flow of patients through the whole system, is also a first.  Both of our organisations have a genuine commitment to working together to improve the efficiency of services and, importantly, the experience of everyone who uses them.”

Mairead McAlinden, Joint Lead Chief Executive of the Devon STP, added: “This is a really good example of key STP partners working together to improve the efficacy and quality of our healthcare services in a way that leads to more joined up services for our patients.”