Clinical-scientist-led transoesophageal echocardiography (TOE): using extended roles to improve the service

Nikki Kaye, Michael Purdon, Rebecca Schofield, Grazia Antonacci, Nathan Proudlove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


At the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, we perform transoesophageal echocardiography (TOE), a semi-invasive diagnostic test using ultrasound for high-quality heart imaging. TOE allows accurate diagnosis of serious heart problems to support high-quality clinical decision-making about treatment pathways. The procedure can be lengthy and is traditionally performed by a consultant cardiologist, who typically has multiple commitments. This constrains patient access to TOE, leading to waits from referral to test, delaying treatment decisions.

In this quality improvement project, we improved access by redesigning workforce roles. The clinical scientist, who had been supporting the consultant during TOE clinics, took on performing the procedure as the main operator. We used the Model for Improvement to develop this clinical-scientist-led service-delivery model, and then test and refine it. This increased capacity and frequency of TOE clinics, reducing waits and releasing around 2 days per month of consultant time.

Over five plan-do-study-act cycles, we tested six changes/refinements. Our targets were to reduce the maximum waiting time for TOE to 3 working days for inpatients and to 14 working days for outpatients. We succeeded, achieving reductions in mean waiting times from 7.7 days to 3.0 days for inpatients and from 33.2 days to 8.3 days for outpatients.

TOE requires intubation; when this fails, TOE is abandoned. We believe light (rather than heavy) sedation is helpful for this intubation. We reduced sedation levels (from a median of 3 mg of midazolam to 1.5 mg) and, as a secondary outcome of this project, reduced the intubation failure rate from 13% to 0% (over 32 postchange patients).

Following this project, our TOE service is usually performed by a clinical scientist in echocardiography who has British Society of Echocardiography TOE accreditation and advanced training. We have sustained the improved performance and demonstrated the value of enhanced roles for clinical scientists.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere002268
Number of pages29
JournalBMJ Open Quality
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2023


  • Continuous quality improvement
  • Quality improvement
  • Quality improvement methodologies
  • Statistical process control


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