Belfast physios deliver seven-day ‘hospital at home’ service

Belfast Health and Care Trust has launched a £1.7million ‘hospital at home’ service in which physios will work seven days a week alongside nurses.


The service aims to manage acute conditions at home to reduce hospital admissions

The multidisciplinary service – said to be the first of its kind in the country – includes three full-time physiotherapists providing acute care at home for older people.

The aim of the service, launched in October and led by a consultant geriatrician, is to manage people’s acute conditions in their own homes and cut unnecessary hospital admissions.

While the ‘hospital at home’ model has been widely implemented elsewhere in the UK, it was only introduced in Northern Ireland in September on a five-day basis at Southern Health and Care Trust.

The initiative is expected to be replicated in all five trusts in the country, with each one deciding whether to provide it on a seven or five-day basis.

Barbara Walker, Belfast trust’s assistant physiotherapy manager, said: ‘It’s a really exciting development with physiotherapy and nursing working over seven days alongside the consultant and GPs to manage the full requirements of acutely ill patients in the community.’

She said the physios are being trained in independent prescribing and how to carry out simple diagnostic tasks in patients’ homes, including venepuncture, and, in the near future, interpreting electrocardiogram results.

‘This means they will soon be able to go out as first responders so there is no duplication of roles,’ said Ms Walker.

Eamon Farrell, physiotherapist and project lead for the Southern trust acute care at home service, has supported the Belfast trust in implementing the model.

‘We are working together to develop the same types of service so there is consistency where patients cross over the borders,’ he said, adding that Western trust has just had its funding approved to begin an acute care at home service next year.

Results so far from the Southern trust show the scheme has prevented about 400 patients from going into hospital, saving about 2,500 acute bed days as a result.

Nathalie Beswetherick, CSP director of practice and development, welcomed the development, saying: ‘We are absolutely in favour of seeing more seven- day physiotherapy services in the community so patients can be treated in their own homes.’

Claire Ronald, CSP senior negotiating officer, added: ‘We support the development of innovative service models where there is evidence of improved patient outcomes.

‘It is also important however to ensure there are sufficient staff to deliver safe and effective services over the whole week and ensure they receive the correct levels of pay.’

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