Bed Bureau

  • 14,000 patients get appointments in first year
  • Over 150 GPs now using the system
  • Reducing risk of long waits in ED

SOME 14,000 patients needing acute medical care in the MidWest have received appointments in the first 12 months of operation of the Bed Bureau at UL Hospitals Group.

Bed Bureau 720 x 375

Members of the Bed Bureau team Ms Mary Hayes, Ms Angela Cullen, Ms Stacey Roe and Mr Jim Keogh. Photo: Brian Arthur

The Group established the Bed Bureau to make access to acute hospital care easier from primary care.

This office, which is manned by clinical staff, receives calls from GPs who wish to have their patients admitted for acute medical care.

The office has received 14,000 referrals since the project went live at the start of the year. And one of the aims of the project is to minimise the risk of unnecessary waits in the Emergency Department at UHL.

The idea is that a GP wishing to have their patient admitted will contact the Bed Bureau on a dedicated line and will be given access to one of the Medical Assessment Units at University Hospital Limerick, Ennis, Nenagh or St John’s Hospital according to the referring GP’s preference.

It is felt that this will lead to a more efficient use of current resources and reduce congestion in the ED at UHL.

According to Prof Declan Lyons, Clinical Director, Medicine, and Consultant in Geriatric Medicine, UL Hospitals Group: “The Bed Bureau provides a structured methodology for accessing acute hospital care from primary care. It offers the best mechanism for minimising the risk of an ED trolley wait by providing alternative access points to the hospital network other than ED. The initial phase of this initiative has worked better than expected and we now need to turn our efforts to ensuring that the Bed Bureau facilitates patient triage from primary care and not from the floor of ED.”

Prof Lyons said the feedback to date from GPs had been positive.

The statistics 

Bed Bureau fact file:

  • Total number of patients - 14,000 (up to mid November 2017)
  • No of GPs using the BB - 156 GPs use the service. 20 GPs have made more than 100 referrals each.
  • Average time to take a call and book a patient in - 2.43 minutes
  • Average time from call to appointment - 1 day

Comments from GPs

Dr Emmet Kerin, Treaty Medical Centre, Limerick

“I have had experience of working in the Acute Medical Assessment Unit in 2012 as a sessional Doctor while we were getting the Practice up and running, so I have seen a huge evolution in the service with the advent of the Bed Bureau.

The AMAU was a meaningful start in re-orientating how General Practice interacts with secondary care, giving access to urgent care. The unsustainable model of access through the doors of the Emergency Department had to change. A hospital needs to be viewed as having many doors of access and a functioning AMAU facilitates this .  

To be honest, in early days the AMAU struggled with timely access and frequently became overloaded with ED overflow and needed a mechanism to create scheduled flow.  The AMAU concept was correct but it needed something to allow it to flow and utilise all of the hospital group.

The Bed Bureau is simple at an oversight level having a single number to call in and direct the flow between the UL Hospitals Group of UHL, St John's, Nenagh and Ennis.   However, credit has to be given to the hard work of the UL Hospital Group to fast-track and build the IT platform to enable the hospitals to communicate and share bed spaces in real time, driven by Prof Declan Lyons’ initiative with the concept of the Bed Bureau.

My experience overall has been very positive. My Patients now are aware of the high standards of care across the hospital group and actively seek care in what were once seen as peripheral Hospitals. The fear of access meaning hours on a trolley has been removed with scheduled appointment up to three days in advance.

It's another positive for the health service and Limerick should be proud to showcase it nationally as a mechanism to create efficiency and capacity in the system. We have so much to do and fix in our health service. This initiative gives me great hope that there are solutions, we just need to support those with the initiative.

Dr Tony Cox, Fergus Medical Centre, Ennis

I suppose I am one of those GPs who was sceptical about the introduction of the Bed Bureau.  In County Clare we had enjoyed an excellent relationship with Dr Tom Peirce and the Medical Assessment Unit team in Ennis. We feared that this close working relationship would be jeopardised by the introduction of the dedicated Limerick number for the Bed Bureau. I was one of those who resisted the change most vehemently and who insisted in using the old Ennis number until such time as it no longer was in use. I felt that I needed to support my loyal local MAU and the team working there.

I have found that my misgivings have all proven to have been unnecessary. The service has actually improved with the introduction of the Bed Bureau. The dedicated number is answered instantly by a friendly member of staff. I have become friendly with some of the staff and in particular I have found the professional and caring approach of Jim, Angela and team to be most helpful and considerate. The service is speedy and efficient. There is no need to give a laborious and detailed account of the patient’s demographics or medical history. A succinct and to-the-point patient history is all that is required. A mutually agreeable time slot is offered to the patient. If there is no slot available today, then one is offered for the next day. The staff member offers me the most efficient & effective time slot that they have available. 

The close relationship with my local hospital in Ennis is maintained and my loyalty to my local medical service is protected. My patients are delighted to be offered an appointment and a dedicated time slot to be seen in their own local hospital, thus saving them the long and uncertain wait that they might otherwise have endured in the Emergency Department in UHL.

Its a win-win situation for my patients and  I am happy to endorse the service as it improves my patient’s journey and provides me with an effective , friendly and dependable service that I can rely on to deliver.

Last updated on: 22 / 12 / 2017