The anticoagulation service – better for patients
Anticoagulant medicines are given to people at a high risk of getting blood clots to reduce their chances of suffering from conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and deep vein thrombosis. Although anticoagulants are often referred to as ‘blood-thinning’ medicines, they don’t actually make blood thinner but they do interrupt the blood clotting process. The most commonly prescribed anticoagulant is warfarin.
More than 2,500 people in the Greater Huddersfield area are currently using anticoagulants. Before April 2015, these patients would be monitored at an outpatient clinic at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, or at a community phlebotomy clinic. In a review of the service, patients asked for better accessibility, more choice and a more personal approach so a new service, accessed via specialist community ‘hubs’, was developed.
Dr Steve Ollerton, Clinical Leader, NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG and local GP said:
“This more personalised service gives patients the opportunity to ask questions and discuss their treatment with the specialist pharmacist or nurse at the hub, and book their next appointment at the same time. Having such services at locations more convenient for patients is part of our plan to deliver more care closer to home for local people.”
There are eight hubs throughout the Greater Huddersfield area, all managed by the Huddersfield Anticoagulation Service. Patients can visit the hub most convenient for them, regardless of which GP they’re registered with or where they live.
Improved technology has also had a big impact on the anticoagulation service. Patients attending at the hospital or a phlebotomy clinic would have had blood samples taken from their arms but now a pin prick test is all that’s needed. INR, the International Normalised Ratio, is a measure of how long it takes the blood to clot and nowadays, INR testing machines can give accurate results with just a tiny drop of blood.
Giving just a drop of blood is far less daunting and the INR testing machines offer other benefits. Patients don’t have to wait a day for their blood sample to be sent off for testing and they don’t need to make an appointment with their GP to discuss the results. The INR testing machines give instant results so any changes to treatment can be discussed and put in place straight away.
New mum Gemma Tarazi is a regular visitor to Kirkburton Health Centre. She is at the start of her treatment for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) so she currently attends the anticoagulation clinic twice a week to be tested and assessed.
Gemma said: “I started feeling pain in my leg in my 35th week of pregnancy and when the area started to turn purple, I contacted the maternity unit at Calderdale Royal Hospital. I was taken in straight away to be assessed and that’s when the blood clot was discovered. I was given anticoagulant injections to deal with the clot and am now taking them in tablet form to prevent any further clots from forming.
“I’ve been told that I may have to keep taking anticoagulant medicine for a further six months so being able to attend a clinic near where I live is much easier for me. I have my baby, George, with me during the day so would find it difficult to get to the hospital twice a week. I’ll be glad when the treatment is finished obviously, but each visit only takes about ten minutes so it’s not too bad, and I know that I’m being looked after really well.”
Moving the clinics away from hospitals and into the community hubs has proven to be successful and there has been some very positive feedback about the service. Patients find it convenient to be able to access clinics at any of the eight hubs in the Huddersfield area and they can usually find a convenient time as clinics are available throughout the day.