Hundreds more people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire will benefit from NHS care in the comfort of their own homes this winter, as part of measures to improve care while relieving pressures on busy local hospitals.
The ‘NHS@Home’ service is a joint initiative by local NHS organisations that offers hospital-level care and remote monitoring in an individual’s home, providing an alternative to hospital admission, or helping them to return home promptly following an inpatient stay.
Care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals working from a clinical hub in Bristol and using cutting-edge monitoring devices, smartphones and other technology to check a person’s condition remotely and provide clinical advice and support.
Patients receiving care through the NHS@Home service are given a tailor-made box of equipment – the ‘Doccla box’, named after the company providing the monitoring technology – which includes a pre-configured smartphone with a large font that is easier to read for those with poor vision.
The box also includes wearable medical devices that, depending on a person’s needs, can measure heart rate, respiration rate, body temperature, blood oxygen levels and blood pressure, allowing healthcare professionals to keep people under close observation and intervene if needed.
Healthcare professionals may also visit an individual’s home to provide face-to-face care, if required.
The approach was successfully used during the pandemic to support people with Covid-19 and is now being enhanced, with extra funding of approximately £3.5m during winter 2022-23, to include those with respiratory and heart conditions.
The local service will be able to care for up to 165 people at a time, meaning that hundreds more will benefit from home-based care over the course of the winter.
Lisa Manson, Director of Performance & Delivery at the NHS BNSSG Integrated Care Board, said:
“We’re really pleased that thanks to the NHS@Home scheme, more people will be able to benefit from high-quality, hospital-level care in the comfort of their own home – which is often where they would rather be.
“There’s a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that this approach provides a range of benefits for patients, who recover more quickly in the comfort of their home environment and are less prone to the ‘deconditioning’ which can affect those who stay in hospital for longer periods of time.
“It also gives us extra capacity within our health and care system during the busy winter months when pressure on our hospital beds is at its most intense.”
Jen Tomkinson, Head of Specialist Services at Sirona care & health and NHS@Home Joint Clinical Lead for the community said:
“We are working with other health care professionals across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire to undertake the remote monitoring via a virtual hub in the community as well as face to face visits, if required. It is a great example of collaborative working between health and care organisations, and we have had outstanding feedback from people receiving the service.
“Many people have said that they feel safer knowing they are being regularly monitored, and they receive a huge psychological boost from being at home, in comfortable surroundings with their loved ones. This sort of approach is definitely the future of healthcare and we’re proud to be part of it.”
Rebecca Winterborn, Consultant Vascular Surgeon at North Bristol NHS Trust and NHS@Home Joint Clinical Lead said:
“I’ve worked closely with colleagues from University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, in particular Consultant Respiratory Physician Kathryn Bateman, and Sirona care & health, to develop this new digitally-enabled service and have seen first-hand the difference it can make.
“NHS@Home provides safe care, tailored to the individual, in the place they call home, as an alternative to being in a hospital bed. This means they can be comfortable in their own surroundings, retain their independence and are less likely to experience deconditioning.
“Feedback from patients is overwhelmingly positive and supports this, and we hope to be able to care for many more people in this way over winter and beyond.
“As well as improving the experience of patients, NHS@Home helps make beds available for planned operations and care across our region.
“The HomeFirst approach is a step towards more personalised healthcare and demonstrates a cultural shift in the delivery of wellbeing and health support for our communities”
Eileen York, 96, from Winscombe, North Somerset, has been using the NHS@Home service for the last month after becoming ill with pneumonia before the festive period. Her daughter Kathy Martin has been supporting her to take her daily readings to submit to the service using the smartphone provided with the service.
“On the day mum returned home from hospital the NHS@Home team were on hand to provide us with everything we needed to monitor her condition together. They have been so supportive, regularly checking in over the phone and in person too – which has been really reassuring for both of us. Her mobility is improving, she’s becoming more independent and she’s in a good place mentally.”
“I think I’ve recovered quicker as I feel more comfortable in my own surroundings, I’m able to rest in my own bed and I have my family around me. I am thrilled with the support I’ve received.”
The NHS@Home expansion forms part of a more than £18m investment in schemes to increase bed capacity and respond to demand for NHS services in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire during the challenging winter months.
Other schemes being implemented in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire area this winter include:
- An enhanced mental health ambulance service, providing specialist care for people experiencing a mental health crisis while relieving pressure on wider ambulance services in the region
- A temporary ‘care hotel’ facility to support faster hospital discharge for patients awaiting a home care and rehabilitation package
- A new ward at Southmead Hospital, providing extra inpatient bed capacity
- Expanded ‘same day emergency care’ services at local hospitals to reduce admissions and help people return home sooner following urgent treatment.
The measures are backed up by a winter communication campaign encouraging people to take up flu and Covid vaccinations, speak to their local pharmacy at the first sign of illness, and contact NHS 111 online for immediate help with urgent care needs.
Lisa Manson added:
“We’re working hard to make sure that we can maintain safe and effective services for local people during the busy winter months.
“The public can play their part too, by taking up vaccinations and using the right service for their needs.
“The NHS is here for you throughout the winter. If you think you need help, please speak to your pharmacist, contact your GP or, if it’s urgent, contact NHS 111 online to get assessed and directed to the best service for your needs.”
Up-to-date information and advice on local NHS services is available on the NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire ICB website.