Published by BBC NEWS - 19th March 2024
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A pensioner given hospital treatment for pneumonia in his kitchen has described it as “tremendous”.

Sean Daly, 78, had an electrocardiogram (ECG) and intravenous fluids, hooked up by a coat hanger, a day after being discharged from Daisy Hill Hospital.

The retired barber said it was a bonus knowing he had helped free up a bed.

The Southern Health Trust said its Acute Care at Home service had prevented almost 14,000 hospital admissions in 10 years.

It has also enabled early discharge for almost 2,000 people, according to the trust.

Nurse takes temperature of Sean Daly in his kitchen

Mr Daly, who was a barber for 52 years, had back pain and was feeling “very unwell” about a week before he collapsed in February.

He developed a temperature, and was taken by his family to Daisy Hill’s Emergency Department where he was admitted.

Once stabilised, the following day the hospital asked about the possibility of home care.

Care at home? Yes please

“The nurse came and asked how I would feel about getting the same treatment at home.

“I said yes please. When anyone gets the chance to go home – they go home,” he said.

Mr Daly said having the medical team including a pharmacist “dropping in” felt like visits from family for which he was grateful.

‘More staff and resources needed’

Dr Patricia McCaffrey, divisional medical director for older people services at the Southern Trust, said more staff and resources were needed to sustain and grow the home care service across Northern Ireland.

“We need extra staff and more resources and a shift of resources from acute hospitals to the community,” Dr McCaffrey said.

Acute care describes treatment delivered in a hospital environment by nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, and pharmacists.

The home care service in the Southern Trust has been operating for 10 years, but according to Dr McCaffrey it is still not regarded an established model of care and has not been properly funded.

Similar models, which allow more people to be treated at home, are being rolled out in three other health trusts, but not the Northern Trust.

Specialist nurse, Catherine Havarn, said treating people like Mr Daly at home made sense because it took some pressure off the emergency department.

Nurse Catherine Havarn

Ms Havarn, who joined the Southern Trust team in 2017, makes around six home visits a day and would be in regular contact with specialists at Daisy Hill.

She has been a nurse for almost 15 years, and said the number of older people in the area with more than one medical condition was increasing, putting pressure on general practice (GP) and emergency services.

Ms Havarn said she did the same tests on Mr Daly as would have been done in a hospital ward but the risk of delirium and acquired hospital infection were reduced because he was at home.

“We were in a couple of times a day when he was on an intravenous antibiotic,” she said.

“We took his bloods, blood pressure, checked his medication and just kept a close eye on him.

“We are very busy; we are covering the whole of the Southern Trust [area] and have had a large recruitment of staff – we find that older people prefer being looked after in their own house.”

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What is the Acute at Home Service?

The consultant led community scheme supports patients mainly over the age of 65 aims to:

  • Help people stay safe and as independent as possible at home
  • Provide acute medical care at home
  • Avoid unnecessary admission to hospital
  • Encourage quicker discharge once a patient is medically fit to go home

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Despite the service, emergency departments continue to be under pressure, especially during winter.

Dr McCaffrey said it was making difference but was not enough and that health trusts were constrained by resources.

“This service is undoubtedly reducing some of the pressure on acute services but we are dealing with an increasing elderly population with a lot of core morbidities [illnesses] so demand is always increasing.

“We need to be able to plan our services in advance, so we need more resources,” Dr McCaffrey added.

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