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SPOTLIGHT ON DR ABI GUPTA in OPAL+

Dr Abi is a Consultant in the OPAL (QE) team, Lead for the OPAL+ component and Lead Consultant for Norman Power Centre. His young teenage dream of pursuing a career in investment banking faded quite early on when he realised that caring for people rather than money was more in keeping with his true vocation in life.

“My early career thinking – and I’m talking early teen years – was fuelled by the idea of driving flash cars and spending money on nice clothes – I don’t think the actual job came into it!

“It was my uncle who roused my interest in medicine.  He was a doctor at a government hospital in India and was passionate about the work he did and the patients he cared for.  The more he talked, the more I listened and the more inspired I became.  When I chose my ‘A’ level subjects, I chose those that would lead me to a career in medicine.

“I studied for my degree in India and arrived in the UK in 2006 to work as a junior doctor in Scarborough.  It is a great town: the trams, the harbour, the history and the people are so friendly!

Older People’s Assessment & Liaison (OPAL) team

An enhanced and expanded geriatrician led older person’s clinical team at the front door of our hospitals, providing specialist care quickly, reducing hospital admissions, and ensuring we care for older people in the most ideal setting for their recovery.

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) has OPAL teams in all its Emergency Departments and Acute Medical Units at the QE, Heartlands Hospital and Good Hope.  The teams see older people as soon as they arrive and liaise closely with community services to enable a ‘home-first’ approach. All OPAL + calls are answered by the QE team.  If a patient does have to be taken to Heartlands and Good Hope, the QE lets the respective OPAL teams at these hospitals know the patient is on their way.

I started my registrar training in 2015 at West Midlands Deanery and had the opportunity to work in University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) during 2017-2018 during which time I spent six months in OPAL which was still in its infancy.  I’d spent quite a few years studying geriatric medicine and was also keen to work with community services too.  OPAL was a dream come true as it gave me the opportunity to combine the two.

Geriatric medicine is fascinating.  The opportunity to deliver a holistic approach to care for the elderly reaps so many positive rewards.  I love that older people have a wealth of knowledge that they are keen to share; they are often part of their own solution.  I also welcome the fact  that simple changes can make a huge difference to the quality of their lives and enjoy being part of a team that can help achieve this for the individuals we care for.

I was lucky enough to return to OPAL for a further six months towards the end of my training.  This time I was based at Solihull Hospital where OPAL was slightly more mature and under the great leadership of Dr Teresa Quigley.

I successfully applied for the consultant post in OPAL at UHB a year ago and became OPAL+ Lead in 2021. Both OPAL and OPAL+ are growing from strength to strength.

OPAL+

OPAL+ is a collaborative partnership between the Older People’s Assessment and Liaison (OPAL) team at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham (QE) and the West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS).

OPAL+ launched in March 2020. Since then, crews who are unsure whether a person needs to be taken to the Emergency Department have been using OPAL+ telephone and video technology to connect them and their patients to the OPAL teams based at the QE. Often carers and family members who are with the patient contribute to the assessment too.

In total OPAL and OPAL+ has helped to prevent just under 10,000 unnecessary hospital admissions of older people living in Birmingham and Solihull during the last 12 months.

In OPAL+ we are now working closely with the Community Palliative care team to reduce hospital admissions of palliative patients and ensure they are managed in the community, as well as with the QE Pharmacy who send out urgent medications  like pain killers , antibiotics and end of life care medications to help patients to avoid having to visit the Emergency department or Urgent Care.

“I visit Norman Power Care Centre (NP) once a week to meet the clinical teams and the patients to make sure there are no ongoing concerns and of course I am contactable by phone/Teams during the week if needed.  NP is an intermediate care centre and our goals there are the same as across OPAL.  We want to see patients back in their own home as soon as possible to enable them to recover more quickly. “We are also currently working with the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) towards a collaboration between OPAL + and CMHT for mental health patients to reduce their hospital admissions.”

My favourite part of my role across all three areas is working as part of a team and our ability to assess patients quickly and hopefully enable them to stay at home (OPAL+) or get them back to their own home as soon as possible (OPAL and Norman Power Centre).  As we all know, there is no place like home and people definitely recover more quickly when in their own surroundings!”

Although the investment banker dream is far gone, Dr Gupta has another one tucked up his sleeve.  Passionate about Indian cookery with chicken biryani and Indian rice pudding being two of his specialities, he is an avid watcher of Come Dine With Me.  The TV programme is currently recruiting so watch this space…

In the meantime, here’s hoping for a quiet August and early September for Dr Abi as England and India are playing five test matches across the UK.   “Becoming a world class cricketer has never been one of my career ideas but watching the game is a great way to switch off and relax!”

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