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Preventing COVID-19 hospital admissions

14th April 2022

Thanks to new ground breaking medicines, the Southern Trust is now preventing potential hospitalisation of vulnerable patients infected with COVID-19.

Craigavon Hospital is one of six sites across Northern Ireland offering outpatient antibody and antiviral treatments for the most clinically at risk patients from across the area.

Eligible patients who test positive for COVID-19 are picked up through their PCR or Lateral Flow Test results, will be assessed by a doctor and referred to the nurse-led service. The team receive referrals twice a day, seven days a week. Since they started the service in December, they have administered 579 treatments, and only six of these patients required further hospital care.

They have also now developed a community outreach service, where the team now visits housebound patients who cannot attend the clinic, to administer treatment.

Dr Damian Gormley, Deputy Medical Director for the Southern Trust explains:

“Thanks to very rapid research and development, we are now able to offer treatments that were previously only available to inpatients, to those at the greatest risk of harm from COVID-19 in the community.

“Neutralising monoclonal antibodies and antivirals (nMabs) have been shown to improve survival and recovery time from COVID-19. They are offered to eligible patients in the earliest stages of infection and should be administered as soon as possible after a confirmed positive PCR or lateral flow test.

“Once referred to us, patients will be assessed and advised on suitable treatments, this might be through a drip in your arm as an outpatient or you may be prescribed the antiviral in an oral form to take at home.

“While vaccination remains the first line of defence against COVID-19, these treatments give us an additional layer of support to protect vulnerable patients, preventing them from serious illness.

“It is a huge credit to the team who have worked tirelessly to set up this new service in such a short time and along with primary care colleagues are committed to preventing potential hospital admissions for many patients.”

Feedback from patients has been very positive, Catherine O’Neill from Armagh said:

“On testing positive with PCR test for COVID I was contacted and offered an infusion of antibodies as I had breast cancer. The speed in which I was offered the treatment was outstanding. Eddie and Margarite were on duty and their attitude, spirit and personality made the process painless. They had been working long hours and knew I had COVID and were still willing to risk their health to treat me. In my book they’re angels without wings, as are all the nurses and doctors who have worked throughout this pandemic.”

If you are eligible for treatment because you have a condition that puts you at highest risk from COVID-19 and have tested positive, using a PCR or lateral flow test, you will receive a message informing that your local Trust may be in touch. For more information Interim Clinical Commissioning Policy