Innovative working helping children boost dermatology services in Lincolnshire’s hospitals

Hospitals in Lincolnshire are finding new ways to use specialist staff to reduce waiting times and improve the care of patients.

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Hospitals in Lincolnshire are finding new ways to use specialist staff to reduce waiting times and improve the care of patients.

Advanced nurse practitioner specialist in dermatology, Nicola Housam, is one of only a few specialist nurses in the country who can manage the full journey of new dermatology patients on her own.

This frees up the time of consultants to see and treat more complex cases, reducing waiting times and improving the patient experience.

It is just one of the many ways in which United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust is tackling staffing shortages in key areas, by training other staff to take on some responsibilities.

Nicola joined the Trust about five years ago as a specialist nurse in dermatology, and soon saw that there was a way she could develop her role and support the consultants in her department more.

“There is a national shortage of dermatology consultants, so I thought there is a gap here. I saw that it would be helpful if there were more people in the department who could prescribe.”

So she enrolled on a masters course in advanced nursing in practice at the University of Lincoln. The course, which took her just 20 months to complete, included training in non-medical prescribing. This set her up to be able to prescribe and to carry out assessment and diagnosis.

Nicola also did a child development module at the same time as her masters so that she could see children.

Now she is seeing new patients with certain conditions, diagnosing, prescribing and treating them, and discharging them at Lincoln County Hospital, Pilgrim Hospital, Boston and Grantham and District Hospital.

She is clinically in charge of patients all of the way through their journey. As a result of Nicola’s appointment, patients are seeing an improved service, with much shorter waiting times for children to see a specialist in particular. Children used to wait around six months, and now they have to wait a fraction of the time. It also means these patients are seen in the county, rather than having to travel outside of Lincolnshire for their care.

“The business unit were really supportive of the idea of changing things within the service to benefit our patients, and the consultants were delighted as I am now freeing them up to work on the more complex cases,” said Nicola.

“I now see patients with certain conditions. I see a lot of children with eczema and other patients with acne and psoriasis in particular.

“The role isn’t only about providing direct care, it’s also strategic. In take part in strategic planning for the service, I provide an educational resource for nurses and am taking part in some really exciting pieces of research.”