BROKEN bone patients attending Poole Hospital will soon find themselves attending a 'virtual' fracture clinic, which has already reduced new outpatients appointments for fracture patients by 40 per cent.

The scheme is the first in Dorset and provides an alternative to conventional fracture clinics by ensuring only those who need an appointment are given one in a timely manner.

Previously, all patients seen at the trust’s emergency department with a suspected fracture would have been referred to the hospital fracture clinic. But often, doctors have discovered, a face-to-face appointment is not needed as injuries heal.

Now, ED patients have their injury immobilised in a splint or boot and those who require orthopaedic review are booked onto a virtual fracture clinic rather than automatically attending a traditional one.

Consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, Nikki Kelsall, said: “We designed this service around our patients to ensure they were only attending hospital when absolutely necessary and when they do come they are seeing the right person the first time."

She said that X-rays and patient notes would be reviewed ‘virtually’ by an orthopaedic consultant and specialist physiotherapists who decide the best course of ongoing treatment, which could be a specialist fracture clinic appointment with a surgeon, a referral to physiotherapy, discharge to GP or even arrange an urgent admission in serious cases.

“We hope this new service will help us assess patients much sooner than was previously possible, as well as reduce the number of missed fracture appointments," she said.

As well as improving patient satisfaction and care quality, the trust is also hoping the clinic style will contribute to its paperless strategy, as discharged patients are followed up with advice and rehabilitation guidance by phone and email rather than paper letters where appropriate.