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Preventing hospital admission for older people

5th December 2022

Since it was set up, the Southern Trust’s ‘Acute Care at Home’ service has prevented over 10,000 hospital admissions and supported earlier discharge for more than 1500 people.

As the first Consultant Geriatrician led service of its kind in Northern Ireland, the team aims to respond to referrals from GPs, Northern Ireland Ambulance service and local hospitals within just a few hours.

The team has the same access to diagnostic and laboratory services as in a hospital setting and can treat patients over the age of 65 with a wide range of acute illnesses in residential, nursing or patients own homes. They also have access to mobile diagnostic equipment to carry out scans, take blood tests or organise other investigations and treat a range of conditions like chest infections, pneumonia or dehydration in patients’ own homes.

The Acute Care at Home service has been expanding across the Southern area since it was originally set up as a pilot in 2014.

Dr Patricia McCaffery, Divisional Medical Director for Older People Services in the Southern Trust says: “A hospital admission can be traumatic and disruptive for anyone, but particularly for an older person who may be less mobile, or for those who have dementia. We also know there are associated risks for patients from an unnecessary or longer hospital stay than is needed, for example increased delirium and deconditioning muscle strength.

“Through the Acute Care at Home service, we are transforming the way we offer unscheduled care to our increasing number of older residents who are living with more complex needs. We hope that by offering high quality care in their own home environment, we will promote a better quality of life for our older population, avoiding more stressful admissions and freeing up beds in our very busy acute hospitals when it is safe to do so.”

The Acute Care at Home team includes Consultant Geriatricians, Speciality Doctors, Specialist Nurses, Staff Nurses and Health Care Assistants, Pharmacists , Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, Speech and Language therapists, Dietitians and works closely with many other Community Services.

The team are continually developing their service to support as many patients as possible. They are currently trialling a ‘virtual ward’ system with nursing homes in the Lurgan and Portadown areas. The new approach allows the team to continue to remotely monitor patients who have been discharged from acute care and no longer require face to face treatment.

Feedback from patients and families has been very positive about acute care at home.

Yvonne Parker from Benburb who has used the service recently, said: “It’s a great service and could not be done without. I would heartily tell everyone to help keep it going. Just couldn’t believe the level of care that was given by all the staff from the beginning. No issues with anything and nothing was a problem.”

Yvonne’s daughter, Dawn added: “As a family we feel that the service has been an absolute saviour for mum. I think if mum had to go to hospital she wouldn’t be here today. The acute care at home team have been immaculate, all the girls that were in with mum, the doctors, nurses, everyone was fantastic.”

Husband Ken said: “It is a superb service. Yvonne is doing so well from the team have been with her, mentally, physically, just in every way, we could not have asked for better.”