Bringing the hospital to your own house - how NHS patients are being treated at home

L-R: Nurse Beth Thompson, with patient Paul Groom, and nurse Kerry Davies. Picture by Nicholas Cardi

L-R: Nurse Beth Thompson, with patient Paul Groom, and nurse Kerry Davies. Picture by Nicholas Carding - Credit: Archant

A crucial health scheme which aims to treat patients in their own homes - instead of hospitals - is up and running in Norwich. Health correspondent Nicholas Carding went behind the scenes to find out how more of us could receive NHS services at home.

After measuring Paul Groom's blood pressure, nurse Beth Thompson gives her patient the liquid antibiotics needed for his recovery from a hip operation.

They chat while they wait for the medicine, administered through a catheter, to make its way into Mr Groom's body.

It is a scene one would expect to find in a hospital, but in this case Mr Groom is being treated in the comfort of his own home by Miss Thompson and her colleague, Kerry Davies

'This is so much better than being in hospital,' said Mr Groom.

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'I hate being in hospital, and these girls do a marvellous job.'

Previously Mr Groom would have had to go to hospital for his post-operative treatment, but he is now one of several patients who are being treated in the community through a scheme called HomeWard.

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Funded by Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and run by Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, this sceheme aims to keep patients out of hospital and in their own homes – a key aim for the NHS.

Community nurses, practitioners, and healthcare assistants visit patients, often daily, to give treatment and monitor progress.

A quick look at the figures shows why health chiefs are following HomeWard's progress so closely.

Since April last year the service has stopped an average of 23 admissions to an acute hospital such as the Norfolk and Norwich per month.

It is also estimated that HomeWard has prevented an average of seven A&E attendances per month.

And by September nearly 7,500 visits have been carried out, with teams treating an average of 16 patients per day.

The scheme has also helped the CCG save much-needed money.

Miss Thompson said: 'We have had so many referrals.

'We have gone over capacity [42 visits per day] before because we've wanted to keep patients out of hospital.'

The patient's story

Being treated at home instead of hospital makes the world of difference to Paul Groom.

The former bricklayer, 69, of Costessey, says the nurses do 'a wonderful job' and is thankful he can recover from his operation at home instead of a hospital ward.

Mr Groom had a second hip replacement in November, but needs antibiotics as part of his rehabilitation to combat potential infections.

The antibiotics are administered through a peripherally inserted central catheter (known as a picc line), which is set up by the nurses.

'The staff are very friendly at the hospital, but I still didn't want to be there,'he said.

'I'm glad I could come home when I did. It's so much better to be in your own lounge and bedroom.'

Currently HomeWard is only provided in the Norwich area, though there are similar schemes running elsewhere in the county – for example in the Great Yarmouth and Waveney region.

Mr Groom believes HomeWard should be expanded to the whole of Norfolk.

While they visit Mr Groom, the nurses also monitor his blood levels and can report any escalating health problems to his GP or consultant at hospital.

The whole process takes around 30 minutes.

'If it wasn't for HomeWard he would have stayed in hospital,' Beth Thompson, his community nurse, added.

'All our nurses carry an anaphylactic kit in case anything happens while we're treating people at home, but we have never had to use it.'

Her colleague Kerry Davies said: 'I like being in the community – it feels more personal to see patients in their own environment as opposed to at the hospital.

Analysis - Why is it so important?

You will not have to search through many newspapers today before finding stories about hospitals struggling to cope with the number of patients needing treatment.

Just this weekend there were claims from the Red Cross that the NHS was undergoing a 'humanitarian crisis' –although this was rather an exaggeration which lacked perspective. Whatever your views are on the NHS, most people will agree that taking treatment out of hospitals and into the community, or even people's houses, is necessary to the health service's future. We are living longer with more complex conditions, and hospitals should only be reserved for those who are most seriously ill. That's why schemes such as HomeWard are so crucial to get right. And the idea not only has benefits for the patient, but it's also far cheaper to treat someone in their own home than in a hospital. Over the next two years the NHS is set for minimal funding increases – making schemes like HomeWard even more valuable.

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