A transformation programme which helps community nurses plan visits, reduce travel time and increase time with their patients has won a national award for the second time.

Clinicians at Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT) have won the “Best Use of a Solution” category in the Smarter Working Live 2020 awards.

The entry was based on work to introduce new computer functionality for staff working in the community, which optimised travel between patients’ homes, the services they needed, and the skill level of the individual staff, and the availability of staff.

LPT’s community nurses were the first to try out the new module, called Autoplanner. It is now being used by LPT’s continence nurses and phlebotomists as well.

The project won the Workforce Innovation category in the Health Service Journal Partnership Awards in February this year. It was also shortlisted in the Nursing Times awards, and was highly commended (runner up) in HTN (The Health Tech Newspaper)’s “Excellence in Implementation” category.

Transformation programmes which included implementing Autoplanner helped reduce LPT’s continence waiting lists by 24 per cent between August and December 2019. They also helped increase the proportion of a community nurse’s day spent in face-to-face contact with patients from 31 per cent to 71 per cent.

LPT was the first trust in the country to introduce the tool, in partnership with software developer TPP, consultants Newton Europe, and NHS Leicestershire Health Informatics Service (LHIS).

They have since shared the lessons learned with other trusts and health providers from across the country. This included hosting a national conference in Leicester.

Rachel Dewar, head of LPT’s Community Health Services, said: “I am so very proud of this work and in every single person involved in it. They absolutely deserve this recognition. And we couldn’t have done it without our amazing partners.

“We decided to carry out a comprehensive transformation project, taking a fresh look at every aspect of how we delivered care to people in their own homes to help our nurses to spend more face-to-face time with patients in their working day, to reduce travel and duplication in recording and to support all of our staff to develop their skills to support them to support patients.

“An important aspect of this was how we created a visit list for each of our 300 healthcare assistants and nurses each day.

“So when TPP announced that they were adding functionality to the electronic patient record that we already use to do this task, we jumped at the chance to develop it.

“Our healthcare assistants and nurses worked with our consultants Newton Europe and our information technology service provider LHIS to trial and develop the new functionality, called Autoplanner. We reported back our findings and experiences to TPP, which helped them refine the module for adoption across the country.”

Rachel Dewar added: “The results have been very positive. We can see how much capacity and how much demand we have each day, and where we have additional capacity we can allocate time for staff training and supervision; staff vacancies in our core community nursing teams have reduced, and the proportion of staff reporting they can complete their workload in their contracted hours has increased. We are now much more confident we are sending staff with the right skills to the right patient at the right time.”

Simon Jones, business manager from Leicestershire Health Informatics Service, said: “LHIS worked closely with Newton Europe, TPP and LPT on the IT solution to enable the transformation project to achieve right staff, right skill, right place, at the right time.

“Autoplanner takes information entered into the system to generate a plan for that day’s patient visits. Nursing staff were previously undertaking the planning manually. The benefits delivered in the project have been impressive and we are working with LPT to roll this functionality out to other services.”

Matthew Stickland, director of strategy and communications from TPP, said: “Working with LPT, Newton Europe and LHIS on Autoplanner was a fantastic project for TPP. We are delighted to hear about the amazing results in improving nurse contact time with patients and saving planning time for upcoming visits. This is a great example of how technology can assist in transformation – improving patient care, helping frontline staff and reducing costs.”

Mandeep Mohan, the programme lead from Newton Europe, said: “The challenges LPT were facing are shared by many other healthcare providers. Their ability and desire to be bold, and initiate a digitally-enabled transformation programme so they could address these challenges, has enabled them to achieve these amazing results.

“They recognised the need to work as a multi-disciplinary team, and with a range of organisations, to ensure the right professionals were involved from the beginning. It was an absolute pleasure working with LPT as part of a wider transformation programme. In addition, being part of the LPT, LHIS and TPP team, and seeing the module not only being rolled out to other areas of LPT, but to other healthcare organisations across the country was fantastic. This is leading to a real and measurable impact on staff and patients far greater than originally planned.”

The latest award was declared at an online event hosted by comic Lucy Porter. The Government chief people officer, Rupert McNeil, made the announcement that LPT had won the “best solution” category within the “people” section of the Smarter Working Life awards.