NEW methods of dealing with outpatient appointments in Gwent hospitals are helping to reduce waiting times and minimise the need for follow-up consultations.

Trials of new systems for fracture patients, and in dermatology and urology could pave the way for changes in managing outpatients across a wider range of specialties.

And it could trigger significant reductions in the number of such appointments, saving time for patients and freeing up doctors and nursing staff.

A new system being trialled at the Royal Gwent’s extremely busy fracture clinic has introduced consultant-led ‘virtual’ clinics, through which all referrals from A&E are screened to ensure appointments are booked into the right sub-specialty to avoid cancellations and rebooking.

It is also seeking to avoid referrals from A&E for six common fractures, with the support of patient advice sheets and a 24-hour helpline.

A formal review in August will gauge success, but the aim is to cut by 30 per cent (about 250 a month) the number of patients needing to be seen as new patients in the clinic.

In dermatology, some patients are now being referred by their GP to have a high quality image of their skin condition taken by a medical photographer, which is then reviewed by a consultant.

In urology, a booking clerk is now part of the department, rather than being in a central booking team. The closer link to patients may be partly responsible for a recent fall in missed appointments.