Health bosses in Stafford, Cannock Chase and the surrounding areas have received national recognition for a programme of work which supports GPs to distinguish between Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), without the need for patients to attend numerous hospital appointments.
Representatives from Stafford and Surrounds CCG and Cannock Chase CCG presented the project at June's Commissioning Live conference and are set to do the same again in November as well as being put forward for a Shared Learning Award with the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
The pilot for the project, which has also attracted the attention of the Department of Health, has seen the test, called CalScreen, introduced across all GP practices in Stafford and Cannock and could bring an end to the need for patients to attend numerous hospital appointments just to receive a diagnosis.
CalScreen measures the levels of calprotectin in patient’s faecal matter and can help doctors distinguish between inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and non-inflammatory bowel diseases, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Dr Holmes and Dr Free (Clinical Lead of Stafford & Surrounds CCG / Cannock Chase CCG) said: "Before we had this test in primary care, patients would have to be referred to hospital for outpatient appointments and diagnostic procedures such as colonoscopies.”
"Consultants we spoke to at the local hospital supported the national evidence that approximately 32% of patients they saw in hospital were often diagnosed with IBS and could have been managed by their GP in Primary Care".
"The new test gives us results in 10 minutes, so patients get their diagnosis much quicker at their GP practice, rather than having the added worry of a hospital appointment, undergoing the procedure itself and then having to wait a few more weeks for the results."
Dr Holmes and Dr Free said during the pilot, which ran between July 2014 and August 2015, 833 tests were carried out, with 467 resulting in a negative diagnosis, meaning 467 patients were managed quickly and efficiently at their own GPs rather than needing to attend appointments in hospital.
This also means patients who did need to be referred to secondary care could be seen more quickly and additionally results in a financial saving for the local health economy in the region of £280,000.