An innovative new service providing older people with expert medical and social care in their own home has been launched in Belfast today.
The ‘Acute Care at Home’ team involves a range of healthcare professionals working together to help older people manage conditions such as chest infections, urinary tract infections, cellulitis and dehydration without the need for attending the emergency department, or being admitted to hospital. The 40-strong team is led by a Consultant Geriatrician who specialises in the care and treatment of older people, includes specialist doctors and nurses, and has input from pharmacy, social work, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and community psychiatric nursing.
£1.74m funding has been provided by the Belfast Local Commissioning Group and the initiative has been established by the Belfast Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs) which have brought together the healthcare professionals, voluntary and community representatives and service users and carers who have been involved in designing the new service.
Dr Alan Stout, GP lead and Chairman of the East Belfast Integrated Care Partnership, explains:
“Acute Care at Home is an excellent example of a truly joined up and innovative way of working that will deliver seamless care; provide a better experience for patients, their families and carers; and reduce pressure on hospital services. The service is designed to enable health and social care providers to work more closely together to keep people well in local communities and to better share information to plan safe, high quality care around each individual’s needs. Patients referred to the service will have, within their own home environment, the same access to specialist tests as hospital inpatients and will receive assessment and treatment from a team of specialist professionals, including a hospital consultant.”
Older people, age 75 and over, can be referred to the service five days a week (9am-8pm) by their GP, paramedics or Belfast Trust staff working in the community. The team will provide a comprehensive and rapid assessment; advice and guidance; and agreement of a 24/7 treatment plan, including how often the team will visit the patient.
Jan Ritchie, Consultant Geriatrician at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said:
“The Acute Care at Home team enables the treatment of a much wider range of conditions within a patient’s own home, including nursing and residential accommodation, and will complement the existing structures already in place across the Belfast Trust area to provide care closer to home and in the community. A hospital admission can be particularly disruptive and traumatic for an older person who may be less mobile, for those who have dementia, or are carers. This service maintains the independence of the individual, reduces the potential for the onset of confusion or hospital acquired infections, and promotes a quicker recovery.”
The Acute Care at Home Service is now in place across the Belfast area. A similar service is in operation in parts of the Southern and South Eastern areas; and opportunities are being considered to develop existing community services in the Northern and Western areas.
Dr Ian Clements, Chairman of the Health and Social Care Board, added:
“A key principle of Transforming Your Care, and the development of 17 Integrated Care Partnerships across Northern Ireland, is to ensure that each person gets the care they need, in the right place, and at the right time. The establishment of the Acute Care at Home service in Belfast, and similar models of care throughout Northern Ireland, is an important part of the transforming how we deliver urgent care as the number of older people living with more complex needs continues to grow.”