Many positive changes have come out of the NHS response to COVID-19. As our health and care systems address the complex challenge of a backlog of elective cases, the approach of Winter and further COVID-19 surges, what can be done to balance these competing demands on systems with limited capacity?
This article considers some timely, grounded and cost-effective options for the sustainable recovery and delivery of core NHS services while retaining the ability to respond to COVID-19.
• Expanding the provision of home-based care will free up hospital capacity to help address these pressures, increasing the ability to deliver ‘ordinary’ health and care services.
• Home-based care has the additional advantage of reducing the risk of cross infection between COVID-19 positive and other patients
• Technology – the use of video consultations and remote monitoring are positive changes in models of care delivery which can be further developed to maximise efficiency and resources.
NHS providers and commissioners need to take steps to provide timely and cost-effective care in excess of ‘pre-COVID-19’ capacity. Actions which could be ready for Winter 2020/21 include:
Optimising inpatient beds promoting safe, effective, efficient patient flow from hospital to home.
• Delivering models of Early Supported Discharge. Moving patients out of the acute setting sooner to complete care at home instead of in hospital.
• Better planning of the route into and out of hospital. Prehabilitation (before surgery) and rehabilitation (post-surgery) reduces the length of stay in hospital and improves outcomes.
• Continue the joint working between NHS and private healthcare to enable changes to be implemented quickly.
• Value for money. Flexible capacity based on the patient at home is more cost efficient than capital spending on less flexible new ward building.
To address these needs a range of factors should be considered:
NHS Hospital Trusts have been working hard with their community partners to improve the integration of services so that patients have a quicker and smoother transfer to the care they need at home, or close to home.
The independent sector has played a significant role in supporting the NHS across all parts of the healthcare system in responding to COVID 19. The relationship between the two sectors has radically changed during this period with great examples of partnership. It is important to ‘lock-in’ these changes for the next phase of the pandemic response and once service provision normalises.
• The 2-hour discharge pathway is a positive step, however, gaps are already emerging as former reasons for delay reappear and delayed discharge lists grow – this demonstrates a need for a quick reaction service to add to existing community capacity
• The rapid adoption of technology should be retained and built on. Mobile patient records, virtual MDT, remote monitoring and analytics of data from wearables should be encouraged
• Lock-in the attitude that there are ‘no acceptable delays in patient discharge. Meaningful measures will allow this to be tracked in acute and community settings.
Patients are spending unnecessary nights in a hospital bed because of delays in services which would provide their care at home, or in another setting. Delayed discharge also results in deconditioning for patients, increased risk of infection and ultimately an increased cost of care.
Early supported discharge services and virtual wards offer a scalable way to provide patients with the care they need at home, instead of in hospital – a ‘Hospital at Home’. These services fill in the gap until established community services are available or offer types of home-based care not provided locally. Where already operated by the NHS and their partner organisations these services offer a safe and cost-effective option for patients who welcome the opportunity of an early return to the familiar surroundings of home.
Hospital at Home provides a comprehensive ‘secondary care at home’ service, for example: IV therapies, wound care (including) negative pressure therapy, rehabilitation and bridging packages of care. The service recognises the needs of individual patients and considers diversity of the population with respect to cultural needs.
Our Hospital at Home service complements existing services integrating with NHS and local authority community provision. It responds quickly to allow medically stable patients to leave hospital or avoid admission, improving flow and releasing inpatient bed capacity.
• Clinical responsibility remains with patient’s consultant/GP, unless otherwise agreed. Interventions are prescribed by the accountable consultant/GP and delivered at home by the HomeLink Healthcare multi-disciplinary team
• The multi-disciplinary teams comprise of highly skilled and well-trained registered nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and healthcare assistants
• A mobile electronic patient record (EPR) allows all staff involved in a patient’s care to access the care plan and care record in the field via a mobile app
• Telehealth devices can be used to monitor the patient’s vital signs between care visits (24/7)
• All patients have their holistic needs assessed prior to discharge and a clinical baseline established and Care Plan developed. At each visit patient needs are reassessed, changes monitored and recorded in the EPR. Home visits are conducted according to patient needs, including both nursing and therapy observations.
• For each patient flags and indicators for escalation are agreed and contained in the Care Plan identifying when additional medical review or escalation is required. When indicated by clinical need a multi-disciplinary team review will also be undertaken.
HomeLink Healthcare supports the delivery of core NHS and care services during the pandemic and beyond HomeLink Healthcare is an independent sector organisation partnering with the NHS to deliver home-based care to patients who would otherwise be in hospital, a Hospital at Home. We enable this with our safe, high quality and caring service, supported by technology and our skilled staff, delivering care at the right time in the right place. We are supporting the NHS with a flexible, responsive and agile approach to changing care needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Providing home-based care for patients reduced hospital bed nights and avoided admissions, lowering demand on stretched resources and risk of cross infection. We are continuing to work alongside our NHS partners to maximise the utilisation of inpatient beds by caring for patients at home as soon as they are medically suitable for our services.
HomeLink Healthcare are experts in designing, mobilising and delivering Hospital at Home Services. Find out more about the process of commissioning HomeLink Healthcare to set up a Hospital at Home service.
To speak to a member of our team about virtual wards, call us on (020) 3137 5370 or contact us. You can tell us about your situation, and we can tell you more about our experience of Hospital at Home and how we might be able to help you.
“I am so grateful to have been referred to HomeLink Healthcare, they have really helped me get back on my feet. If I had stayed in the hospital I would not have achieved everything I have done”
“The visiting therapist took her time with me, was always providing encouragement and without that I wouldn’t be at the point I am today.”
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