Dreaming of a better service for patients with sleep apnoea has become a reality for one hospital team – leading to shorter waiting times and a national award.
For six months, the directorate of sleep medicine at The James Cook University Hospital worked on streamlining its service for patients with OSA – obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome – a serious health condition characterised by pauses in breathing or infrequent breathing during sleep.
Once the condition is diagnosed it can be treated very effectively with CPAP – continuous positive airway pressure therapy – through the use of a mask which helps with breathing during the night to ensure the upper airway in the neck doesn’t close.
But the team was keen to see what more it could do for its patients just by working smarter and more efficiently and has produced some impressive results including:
- Significant reductions in waiting times for all aspects of the service including halving waiting times for first appointments
- Improving access to care for patients and ensuring they’re seen in a timely manner
- Increasing capacity in the service, allowing the team to offer more ‘sleep solving’ sessions for any patient having problems or issues with their treatment or equipment
- Having dedicated areas to see and treat patients
- Offering specialist nurse led new patient consultations
- Offering a new equipment service
Now the team has scooped a national Lean Healthcare Academy Award for ‘sustained improvement to patient care’.
Directorate manager Janet Griffin said: “We came into this as a team wanting to create the perfect pathway for our patients and have seen some very impressive results. Winning this award is really just the culmination of all that work but we’re delighted and want to continue to improve the service for our patients.”
It is estimated that between two to four per cent of the population suffer from sleep apnoea, with up to 80% of affected individuals unaware that they have this condition. Around 3,500 people are currently receiving treatment in the Tees Valley region alone.
Sleep apnoea can be associated with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart conditions and stroke. Sufferers may also notice poor short-term memory and a regular dry throat and headaches in the morning on waking.
Lead clinician for sleep medicine Professor Gerard Danjoux said: “Sleep apnoea leads to the closure of the upper airway while sleeping and usually occurs in heavy snorers. Each time a person’s airway closes, they have a micro ‘wake-up’ to start breathing again which they’re usually unaware of, yet in severe cases this can happen up to 100 times an hour throughout the night.
This leads to serious sleep disruption and exhaustion the following day and, worryingly, can lead to a significantly increased risk of injury. This is particularly the case for drivers who may have a tenfold increased risk of being involved in a serious road traffic accident.
“We are overwhelmed to win this award – it is a great achievement. It shows the commitment and dedication of our staff to continuously improve the sleep service, ensuring we always provide excellent patient care and timely access to treatment.”
The trust also won the people’s choice award for its work on improving its discharge processes. Between May and October, 43 teams took part in discharge workshops, which have helped with patient flow and reducing waiting times.