Supporting the NHS workforce to develop skills and drive improvement is one of the HIN’s top priorities. As part of this we set up the Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Prevention Fellowship and now we’re sharing guidance to help other organisations looking to run similar programmes. Sophie Mizen, Project Manager for the Fellowship Programme, writes about what we learnt from running the programme and how you help spread the word.
We set up the Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Prevention Fellowship to address an area which is a top priority for the NHS. There are six million people in the UK with CVD and taking action to prevent it is the best way of reducing harm and saving lives. With a total cost to the NHS of £16bn per year, it’s also a more efficient way to tackle the problem than treating CVD at a later stage.
The Fellowship is one of a number of collaborative learning opportunities provided by the HIN to develop skills in the workforce and support the delivery of improvement projects aligned to health and care priorities. This supports our objectives of developing the skills needed to power health and care systems of the future, as well as making an immediate positive impact in areas of need.
The CVD Prevention Fellowship ran between April and November 2022, and included clinical webinars from specialists in the field, and collaborative quality improvement (QI) sessions where fellows could gain new skills, share learning and work on their own QI projects. The Fellowship was open to all health care professionals in primary care in south London.
Running the programme presented some challenges – not least because the number of participants was higher than we expected with over 100 initially expressing interest! We also know that clinicians tend to have very limited time, and while the Fellowship was free to join, we were not able to fund back-fill for time taken out of work. As such we had to keep the time commitment to a minimum, and were flexible in our approach to collecting progress updates.
We also adapted our approach to communication channels as we went. Our used of continuous feedback helped us listen to Fellows' needs and adapt the programme accordingly. As such, we switched our focus from quality improvement theory to practical troubleshooting when we realised this would be more beneficial to the Fellows and a more productive use of their time. We also incorporated some additional sessions such as a webinar on behaviour change in CVD and a drop-in clinic with a specialist going through lipids case studies.
The response to the fellowship was overwhelming, with over 80 fellows being upskilled in various areas of CVD and quality improvement. The fellows were required to deliver an improvement project in their practice/primary care network, to apply their new skills and knowledge. As part of the programme 40 quality improvement projects collectively impacting a total of 63 GP practices, representing all 12 boroughs in south London.
Patients positively responded to the work and we received some great feedback on the impact the quality improvement projects had on an individual level:
Thanks for giving me the information about statins. I did not realise that statins had anything to do with protecting the heart. I just thought it was to reduce cholesterol which I have been trying to do by good diet and exercise. Although sometimes I like to enjoy myself a little and eat the unhealthy stuff, I take my atorvastatin daily and I have not felt any side effects. Looking forward to the next blood test.
You can find out more about the patient experience in our case study pack which includes information on all the projects.
Throughout the programme feedback was received on the beneficial impact of education and training. A final feedback survey revealed that 98 per cent of fellows felt more confident delivering care to people at risk of CVD, and 96 per cent said they are supporting colleagues more with CVD prevention. Most importantly, 95% per cent said their at-risk patients have benefited from what they learnt. We also received great feedback from participants – you can find out more in the video below.
We learnt a lot from running the programme and wanted to share this to make it easier for anyone else thinking of running a similar programme. That’s why we’ve put together a guide outlining our approach, learnings and what we would do differently next time. Please share with any individuals or organisations who might be interested.