AQP (Any Qualified Provider)

What is Any Qualified Provider (AQP)?

The AQP scheme is a government initiative to offer patients a choice of providers for certain key services that can be delivered in the community. Providers who qualify will all have met certain minimum standards regarding the quality of service they provide. Ultrasound (but not pregnancy scanning) is one of the first clinical services to be chosen in this region, and patients needing a straightforward non-obstetric ultrasound scan will be given a choice by their GP of where, and by which provider, they will have their scan. 

What does it mean for me as a patient?

If your GP thinks you need a scan you will be able to choose from any of the qualified providers. You may decide to stick to well established services you have used before and like, or you might opt for a new provider that can offer a different and possibly more convenient site or appointment time. These pages set out what the Plymouth Hospitals community ultrasound service as a “qualified provider” can offer in order to help you make your decision. Naturally we hope you will choose us but you will be free to choose the provider that suits you best. We will offer the same high standard of service as always but at an increased number of community locations in and around Plymouth. 

Are all types of scan included?

No, it will not be appropriate for certain types of ultrasound to be provided in the community in this way. Certain scans need more specialised equipment or specialist staff to perform than will be available in the community. Also, some scans come as part of a specialist patient pathway and are performed alongside other tests or treatments, often in a one-stop clinic. Initially these will not be available until the associated tests can also be delivered in the community at the same site and time.

Examples of excluded scans are:- 

  • Anyone with suspected cancer, these will continue to be done at hospitals where a wide range of additional tests and specialist advice is available.
  • Any procedure needing an injection such as some shoulder or knee scans which include a steroid injection to help treat the condition.
  • Specialised scans as part of a wider investigation for suspected deep vein Thrombosis (DVT) or blood in the urine, because these are usually combined with other tests or treatments.
  • All pregnancy scanning , excluded under the  national AQP rules.
  • All scanning of children under the age of 18, also excluded by the national programme rules.

Where can I get my scan?

Our area of operation covers the city of Plymouth and the towns and villages within about 20 miles around it, on both sides of the Tamar. In choosing our sites we have tried to ensure that 95% of the population will be no more than 5 miles from a site and many in Plymouth will be no more than a couple of miles from the nearest site.

Of course there may be sites available from other providers to choose from which you may need to find out about. We are unable to publish details of what is available from other providers. You will notice that we still offer Derriford Hospital as a choice for those who find it convenient, in particular for our evening scanning sessions.

When will scanning sessions be run at each site?

We will publish a detailed schedule which may vary from week to week in response to demand for the various types of scan in each area but every site will have a clinic at least once per fortnight and any that have more demand will have more frequent coverage. We expect the clinics in Saltash or Plymouth to have a weekly or twice weekly service. In order to accommodate more specialist work or to ensure that those who request a female or male sonographer get their wish we may assign certain clinics as specialist clinics for certain types of scan. When you contact our booking centre to arrange your appointment they will be able to supply you with information on the clinic that best suits you based on the type of scan, your preferred time and your preferred location.  

How long will I have to wait?

Our aim is to ensure that  80% of patients are scanned within two weeks of the request , and all are seen within four weeks, these performance targets will be monitored by the commissioners who control the service for all providers.  

What about quality of service?

We have been given accreditation for our scanning and X Ray services at Derriford, The Radiology Academy and the Cumberland Centre , by the national Imaging Services Accreditation Scheme ISAS. This scheme has been devised by the Royal College of Radiologists and the Society of Radiographers and underwritten by the UK accreditation service UKAS to assure that we meet the highest standards of clinical practice, facilities, safety and patient focussed care. We are proud to be the first department in the Southwest of England to hold this quality benchmark. Our new sites were not open at the time of our accreditation although we run them to the same quality standards and at the next available round of accreditation we will include them also. We do not wish to downplay any rival providers but we feel confident that our standard of diagnostic quality bears favourable comparison with the best available. 

What other advantages do we offer?

Our service is delivered to the same high clinical standards as provided in our specialist hospital service. The only differences are the location of the scan and the fact that the more specialised types of scan are excluded. Our service is delivered by staff (comprising a mixture of sonographers, radiology registrars and some consultants) who rotate through both the acute hospital and community scanning services ensuring they are bang up to date on all the latest techniques and knowledge that is available in a specialist centre. All staff working in the community are able to access immediate specialist consultant advice if they find anything requiring an expert second opinion. They also have ready access to the wider range of investigative techniques at a major hospital to enable rapid referral for such additional tests if needed. The people who are most likely to be your consultant physician or surgeon should your condition need you to be seen by them already work in close collaboration with our senior staff through multidisciplinary team meetings which decide optimum treatment and diagnostic pathways for a wide range of medical specialities. These close working relationships offer unique advantages.

How do we ensure that diagnostic standards are high?

We are a specialist regional training centre for radiologists, and provide practical training for medical students, radiographers and sonographers. Because ultrasound is particularly dependent on the operator performing the scan we use this experience to provide training to maintain knowledge and skills in our established staff as well. We hold weekly meetings to discuss unusual or interesting cases and, by giving all our staff access to this and other specialist training facilities, have systems in place to maintain the highest diagnostic standards. We regularly audit all aspects of our service. This is a requirement of the AQP programme and also ISAS accreditation, but it is something that we have always done in any case. Audit is our way of ensuring that our ongoing training practices really work to help us deliver a quality service.

Who will perform your scan?

All staff will have been CRB checked, are properly qualified and are registered professionals with sufficient experience in ultrasound to provide the high level of skill required. They may be accompanied by a helper who is specialised in assisting them and helping patients with particular needs. Occasionally we may also have a trainee working under the supervision of the doctor or sonographer. In that case you will be told who they are and will have the option to have the scan done by the supervisor rather than the trainee if you prefer.

And finally…

Ours is an NHS service wholly within the NHS and provided by staff and facilities belonging to the NHS. Some private providers advertise themselves as an NHS service but although the service is paid for on your behalf by the NHS, the service itself is actually delivered by a private company. True NHS services are non-profit making with serving the health needs of the public as their principal goal. They provide mutual support to other NHS organisations and are the main suppliers of trained staff for the whole healthcare industry, including most of the private sector. 

Whatever your views on the relative merits of public and private sector provision of healthcare, we feel it important to emphasise our identity as a true NHS provider

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