A team led by a consultant working at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) and Inverclyde Royal Hospitals (IRH) has been honoured in a national award ceremony for their innovative work to improve hepatitis C screening and treatment in areas with the highest estimated rate of drug use in Scotland.
Dr. Mathis Heydtmann, consultant hepatologist and gastroenterologist, picked up a Quality in Care Hepatitis C prize for the Best Treatment Pathway Initiative.
He and colleagues Dr James McPeake, consultant gastroenteroligst (RAH); Joe Schofield, manager Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) managed clinical network; Anne Cameron-Burns and Audrey Anderson, both clinical nurse specialists at Inverclyde Royal Hospital and the RAH, developed a patient centred service in their hospital catchment areas.
This included working with prisoners in Greenock Prison and with local addiction services.
As a result testing in areas with the highest problem drug use has increased by more than 80%.
Dr Heydtmann explained: “The prevalence of HCV infection in these areas is high with many people unaware of their infection.
“We developed close working relationships with referrers and used patient feedback to provide a personalised service.
“The team built up high levels of empathy, made patients feel personally welcome and encouraged them to promote HCV testing among family and friends.”
The initiative also changed clinic times to suit patients and by including contact details on business cards and letters made the team very accessible to patients and referrers.
Continued engagement, with patients many of whom have chaotic lifestyles, was maintained “due to our non-judgemental approach, accessibility, clearness in communication and honesty with regards to the treatment options and decisions,” added Dr Heydtmann.
He praised the commitment and professionalism of his colleagues: “Everyone, particularly the nurses, worked very hard to engage with these difficult patients.
“It’s hoped to expand the team to enable us to carry out more outreach work to build on the HCV testing and treatment contacts we have achieved so far.”