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Spotlight on Dr Teresa Quigley and OPAL now & the future

Recently appointed SRO for the OPAL service across EI and Clinical Service Lead for Healthcare for Older People at UHB, Dr Teresa Quigley, (who, by the way, speaks French, German and even a few words in Vietnamese as well as being a former piano teacher) explains why she was inspired to become a geriatrician, her role within OPAL and her hopes for its future.

At 16 I wanted to be either a vet or a translator.  My natural calling to care won over languages and I turned my attention to studying medicine, initially with a view to becoming a child and adolescent psychiatrist.  It was during my first-year placement post-qualification from medical school that I finally found my vocation when I fell in love with geriatric medicine and its holistic approach to care.

Geriatricians take a patient centred rather than organ specific focus, taking a holistic view of a patients’ physical, social, function and psychological wellbeing. They work in a multidisciplinary team alongside the patient, their family and other healthcare professionals and look at what is important to the patient to set goals and develop an individualised plan for that patient.

I have been involved with OPAL since July 2017, when I joined the Trust, and its initial pilot at Solihull Hospital.

This new service for older adults who presented at the front door of the hospital or those deteriorating in the community focussed on helping people to get better in their own home with support.

At that time there were just three of us in the team – me, one consultant from Heartlands Hospital and nursing support from the team at the medical day hospital.

The opportunity to lead and develop this new service really appealed. During my training I had become aware of the number of older people who were admitted to an inpatient ward when if we had had more to offer them in their own home via a community service, there would have been better outcomes.

During our trial we collected data which secured us funding from the CCG in December 2017 to continue the service. This green light enabled us to start recruiting and by May 2018 we had the full team in place to enable us to provide a comprehensive OPAL service at the Solihull site, working closely with community services in Solihull to facilitate our “home first” approach.

I was appointed Deputy Clinical Service Lead for Older People in 2018 and continued to run OPAL across QE and Solihull sites, and the front door older people’s services at Good Hope and Heartlands sites.  A review of the OPAL service across all sites took place, with a view to aligning the offer to our patients across UHB and following on from this the Early Intervention (EI) programme started to be developed and subsequently trialled.

What we have achieved to date is outstanding, more than trebling our initial target.  We have started to work with the EI improvement team to focus on developing a better quality of data collection and analysis, including the implementation of DHMS, to inform the way we improve what we do and our patient outcomes.

Going forward we are intensifying our work to clarify and implement the OPAL model at all sites.  This includes adopting the same specification at Heartlands Hospital as the other sites, and we are talking to colleagues at Heartlands to agree the best way forward for this.

We are also clarifying our staffing model and will recruit at all sites to enable us to continue to provide a high-quality service to our patients.

Our partnership work with the West Midlands Ambulance Service and the Early Intervention Community Team has reached new heights.  Being able to avoid admitting people to hospital because the EICT can look after them in their own surroundings enables us to do our job well.  Both WMAS and the EICT are a lifeline for OPAL and to citizens out in the community.  There really is no place like home and I look forward to enabling many more people to stay there to recover more quickly.

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