Patients of an NHS pilot scheme which treats them at home rather than in hospitals have described it as ‘fantastic’.

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The Hospital at Home scheme sees patients being visited by nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and other health workers, plus care workers, allowing them to stay at home during their treatment, while still getting all the care they would receive on a conventional ward.

Care can range from daily visits by the clinical team, to more intensive support worker input and overnight support.

The scheme treats patients who have previously been in conventional hospitals, or who have been referred directly by GPs, to avoid unnecessary hospital admission. It allows them to get out of hospital and back to familiar surroundings sooner, while freeing up hospital beds for other patients.

The scheme is being commissioned by the NHS’ Woodbury, Exmouth and Budleigh (WEB) locality commissioning group, and is provided by the local Integrated Health and Social Care team, having started last December as a six-month pilot, it has now been extended for a further period of evaluation. It has a nominal ‘ward’ size of up to 21 patients it can care for at any one time.

Therapy manager Maria Dickson said: “This area has a very high elderly population, and for the elderly, particularly people with early dementia, hospital can be disorientating, with risk of infection.

“Looking after people in their own home is a much better way of doing things. It can be challenging because it’s not a ward of people in one place – we currently have patients as far apart as East Budleigh and Lympstone – but we can put in quite intensive measures to support them at home.”

Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital’s lead clinician for older people, Dr Anthony Hemsley said: “The essence of Hospital At Home is blending the different services at community and hospital level so that the patient receives a co-ordinated package of care in the familiar surroundings of their own home led by their GP and a consultant geriatrician from the RD&E.

“Instead of the care team coming to the patient bedside on a hospital ward, they provide their care in the home of the patient, which we are finding is better for their recovery and overall health and wellbeing.”

One of Hospital at Home’s satisfied patients is Exmouth resident Bill Allan. Having been discharged from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, he was being looked after by his wife Ann, but had to be readmitted following a fall.

During his second hospital stay, he was referred to Hospital at Home, and he and his wife have been left full of praise for the scheme.

Bill said: “It’s the most fantastic system possible. I can’t fault the staff. Being at home is 100 per cent better [than being in hospital].”

Bill’s wife Ann said: “The first time he came out of hospital I had no help whatsoever. There’s still a lot of pressure on me, but [Hospital at Home] has taken a lot of pressure off.

“When the nurses come in they’re calm, and then you become calm. They’re not intrusive, they get on and do all the necessary bits and pieces, and they’re there if I need them – I only have to ring a number and they come round.”

With the scheme still being in a pilot phase, its staff are in no doubt of its need to continue – and its benefit to patients.

Community matron Andrew Stevens said: “I’m passionate about Hospital at Home because I know it benefits patients in this area, and I would like to see it continue.

“Our team love working in Hospital at Home. All of them have a passion for it because they recognise as professionals in their area the benefits it has for the local community. We all work very hard to make this work.”

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