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Hospital charts success of treating more patients at home

15th August 2013

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.

It was announced last week that extra money has been awarded to A&E units to cope with patient numbers in response to warnings that hospitals are being overstretched and that community-based care needs to be improved. Adam Brimelow, a BBC health correspondent, has looked further into the issue in this article for BBC News, which investigates how a scheme in north London could be a solution to this problem.

The scheme in question allows people who have been hospitalised to return home whilst still poorly but medically stable. The scheme has been extended following its initial success and the hospital running the scheme is hopeful that its long term benefits will soon be realised in more hospitals across the UK.

The Royal Free Hospital in North London has been trialling the Pace (post-acute care enablement) scheme in order to see if it can achieve the goal of freeing up hospital beds whilst still providing patients with great care. “Casefinders” that are based in the hospitals assess patients on a daily basis, identifying those who are unwell but are medically stable enough to be treated at home. With the help of independent living aids such as walk in showers, nurse-led support and free social care to help with washing and dressing, patients are able to return home and still receive the care that they need.

Doctors and nurses at the hospital work closely with the people involved with the Pace scheme, and rather than following the early discharge schemes that some hospitals run, patients that are allowed to return home early are not formally discharged. This means that they exist in virtual wards that still remain under the care of a hospital consultant, and whilst at home they still get regular visits from nurse-led support.

Feedback that has been collected so far from the 3,000 or so patients that have been through the scheme has been largely positive, with high patient satisfaction and a reduction in readmission rates from 20% to just 3.5%. Many of the patients that have been through the Pace scheme are elderly people with long term conditions, people who are unlikely to benefit from an extended amount of time in hospital and are able to live comfortably at home with independent-living aids such as straight stairlifts and regular home visits from well-trained and experienced community nurses.

Renee Vincent, an 84-year-old patient who has used the Pace scheme, has said that she was "absolutely delighted" to be able to return home early, and the Royal Free Hospital reported that the scheme has enabled them to provide excellent patient care at a lower cost, whilst also freeing up beds that are in high demand. Although the scheme is still in its early stages, positive feedback such as this could result in more hospitals in the UK operating similar systems.

Image Credit: tahitianlime (flickr.com)