A senior paramedic has cut A&E visits from ‘frequent callers’ by up to 90% simply by meeting them for a coffee and a chat.
Rhian Monteith’s innovative idea is now being rolled out across the country and looks set to save the NHS millions of pounds a year.
Frequent callers are classed as those who call at least five times a month or at least 12 times in three months.
The 39-year-old’s scheme, called the High Intensity User programme, identified 23 patients in Blackpool who had visited A&E 703 times in the previous three months.
Those patients were offered a coffee and a chat, personal mentoring and one-to-one coaching, became involved in community activities and encouraged to phone her and not 999.
Through this scheme Rhian helped A&E attendances, emergency calls and hospital admissions drop by around 90% among the group.
The programme was then scaled up to cover around 300 patients in Blackpool over the next three years, saving the NHS more than £2 million, and has been rolled out to around a fifth of the country.
NHS England now wants all remaining clinical commissioning groups to take on the idea to make the NHS more efficient.
Around 5,000 people visit A&E units more than 20 times each year, costing the NHS £53 million.
Ms Monteith, who now works as the High Intensity User lead with the RightCare programme, said: ‘This scheme is about making sure people are not left behind in society and not medicalised or criminalised.
Every individual is put in contact with a person in their lives who cares about them, and stands with them in their time of need.
‘I’m incredibly proud to see how my idea has grown and it shows how, if you are armed with a phone and a high level of emotional intelligence, and ask people “what matters to them” instead of “what’s the matter”, the difference you can have to people who need a hand up in life.’
Tessa Walton, director of NHS Delivery, said: ‘The High Intensity User programme is a fantastic example of what we are trying to achieve – improving patient care while reducing some of the pressure on NHS services through new ways of working.
‘We really want to see all local NHS areas using this idea to benefit their patients and services.
‘The fact that it was an advanced paramedic working on the front line of patient care that spotted the potential demonstrates that, regardless of where in the health service someone works, a good idea can have a huge impact across the whole NHS.’