Anecdotal evidence suggested that waiting times within the older adults community mental health team (OA CMHT) had been increasing over time. An assessment and evaluation was indicated to ensure best quality care was provided for patients.
A comparison was made between waiting times in January to December 2011 compared with August 2013 to July 2014. In 2011 the mean number of days until initial assessment from the point of referral was 12 days for routine cases, and 3.6 days for urgent cases. The re-audit showed the number of days increased to 15.89 days for routine cases, and 9.81 days for urgent cases. Contributory factors were reviewed, and it was felt that to address this problem, a duty worker role was necessary.
The role of the duty worker was divided into triaging and allocating work. The triaging process was to ensure all urgent cases were highlighted early and acted upon. The duty worker’s role was also to gather sufficient information from the referrer, to reduce the risks of inadequate knowledge delaying assessment. In addition, the allocating process required the duty worker to designate a clinician in charge of the case upon receipt of referral. This ensured that clinicians were able to offer the earliest possible appointment slot for the initial assessment, and thus reduce waiting times.
Following implementation, findings from September 2014 to February 2015 showed an improvement in average waiting times, as well as an improvement in the percentage of assessments reviewed within previously set standards. For routine reviews, the mean time until assessment was 10.68 days. For urgent reviews, the mean time until initial assessment was 6.8 days. However, it was noted that majority of urgent reviews were still not being reviewed in time.
The outcomes of this study demonstrated an improvement of both waiting times, and percentage of patients being seen within set standards following a single intervention. In the current climate of cost efficiency savings, it is important for services to continue to find ways to streamline and improve upon current practices, to ensure the best outcome for patients.
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