Game-Changing Specialist Communications tool could save hundreds of lives and millions of pounds for the NHS

There are an estimated 40,000 people in the UK living with a spinal cord injury and each year over 1,000 people are newly injured.*The Backup Trust estimates that every eight hours, someone in the UK is permanently paralysed.*1  As with most demands placed on the NHS, the number of Spinal Cord Injuries continues to increase year on year.

The complications and long-term effects in Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) can be life-changing.

After a traumatic SCI, the number of complications during the acute phase hospitalization, depends on the timing of surgery, with less complications when surgery is performed soon after the injury. It’s proposed that patients with traumatic SCI should be operated within 24 h following injury to reduce complications.*2

Complications from spinal trauma are varied, ranging from obvious complexities such as paralysis, cauda equina syndrome and chronic musculoskeletal pain, to lesser known aggravations such us neurogenic shock, cardiovascular disease and respiratory complications, amongst others.

Sometimes these complications can be compounded by improper judgement by clinicians who do not have specialist knowledge, delays to treatments and incorrect interpretation of results/clinical picture.

When these complications have life changing ramifications on a patient, compensation is often sought through litigation against the NHS.  In fact these common causes account for over 75% of claims.*3

Litigation represents a significant and increasing burden on the National Health Service (NHS). The total cost over the 2016/2017 period was £1.6bn. Four times the figure for 2006/2007. Costs related to spinal surgery in the financial year 2016/17 were estimated at £135 million and are predicted to double over the next seven years.*3

Compensation is generally paid because either:

  1. The care delivered was sub-standard and the patient suffered as a consequence or;
  2. The hospital could not prove the care delivered was the best possible.

Amplitude Clinical Outcomes were commissioned by leading specialist spine surgeons in the UK to create a pioneering new communication platform to be used to expedite critical and specialist referral communications between general hospitals and specialist spine hubs.

The cloud-based system automatically notifies clinicians when a new referral has been received and when advice has been returned, so that ‘downtime’ between teams, during any on-going communications, is minimised, until patient management decisions are agreed.

All communications are tracked and auditable so patients are not ‘lost’ in the referral process.

ReferBack™ is the game-changing specialist communications tool launched in the NHS in June 2018 at 2 pilot sites, Royal Devon & Exeter and Sheffield Teaching hospitals.

When a clinician refers a patient or requests advice, they can now follow a structured protocol (previously a string of telephone calls between inconsistent staff, depending on shifts etc), designed to ensure the spinal hub has all the information they require.  The on-call team are notified immediately by SMS of any incoming referrals and the referring clinician similarly notified when a response has been provided.

The tool promotes effective, prompt communications between clinical colleagues, standardising patient evaluation and assessments, tracking and auditing timeframes regarding communications and advice and ensuring the levels of care delivered are consistent and of the highest possible.

For more information on ReferBack™ or Amplitude Clinical Outcomes, please contact Sarah Steptoe at







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