Southampton Nurse Awarded for IBD Patient Helpline

Southampton Nurse Awarded for IBD Patient Helpline
Shirley James (Second from the right)

Last week, an advanced nurse practitioner in Southampton received a national award for the great success of her telephone hotline project for patients living with one of the most common yet debilitating chronic conditions — inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — known to cause abdominal discomfort, altered bowel movement, and malnutrition, to name only a few symptoms.

In 2005, gastrointestinal nurse Shirley James, from Southampton General Hospital, launched an IBD hotline project using separate numbers for urgent and non-urgent calls from IBD patients in need of support and information. The project started slow, but in the year 2012, calls increased by 32%, bringing the year’s total to 1,600 calls and reducing outpatient visits by 785. During the Dr. Falk Pharma Core Awards, James received a nurse education grant worth £500 for the impressive impact of her IBD hotlines.

James recently shared that, before she conceptualized the project, she recognized the unmet need for convenient information and support for IBD patients. It didn’t matter if they had a simple question, or distress over a sudden flare up of symptoms. Previously, an IBD patient would have to make an appointment to consult with a physician. Sarah Needle, a former administrator for gastroenterology, believes providing a specialist hotline made it more convenient and cost-efficient for both patient and health care provider and ensured patients were receiving information from a reliable source.

“Shirley and the team have worked hard to ensure the helpline continues to be delivered even in times when staffing has been challenging and it has been a valuable contribution to improving access and delivery of services to patients with IBD,” Ms. Needle said.

The project has consistently received over 90% positive patient feedback for both urgent and non-urgent calls. Its success has reached other nursing teams dealing with different chronic diseases in a number of health facilities all over the country, and is driving the formation of similar initiatives.

In other IBD news, a professor of surgery is challenging centuries of anatomical theory and has mapped out the human mesentery in a completely different way. If his concept proves to be correct, it may completely change standards of treatment for IBD, including less invasive procedures, reduced complications, speedier patient recovery, and improved cost-efficiency.