SUNDERLAND has become the first place in the UK to trial a pilot scheme that allows chronically-ill patients to be treated in their own home.
The treatment is designed for patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) whose condition becomes exacerbated.
Previously, this could have meant admission to hospital for oxygen therapy as part of a treatment plan.
Individuals respond differently to oxygen therapy and careful management is required, involving a blood gases test to determine whether the oxygen needs to be increased or decreased to aid their breathing.
Oxygen provision has previously been for long-term, planned use and one of the major challenges was being able to provide it in a timely way for short-term use.
Now, NHS South of Tyne and Wear Community Health Services’ Sunderland Urgent Care Team can do the necessary test – involving taking and testing a blood sample from the ear – in the patient’s home using special mobile equipment.
The results are known immediately, which ensures the team can arrange for an oxygen cylinder for short-term use to be delivered by North East Ambulance Service so the patient can continue to be cared for at home.
Marie Herring, modern matron urgent care with NHS South of Tyne and Wear Community Health Services, said: “This is good news for patients who, understandably, want to stay in their homes whenever possible. Although it’s still very new, we are already learning a lot which will help us to improve the service.
“We are absolutely delighted to be in the forefront of something so new and exciting which brings such enormous benefits to patients.
“National guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the British Thoracic Society suggest admission to hospital should be considered for patients who have low oxygen saturation, which inevitably means they require oxygen therapy. We were not able to do the necessary blood testing or provide the oxygen therapy in a home setting before.
“However, through some excellent partnership working with chest consultant Dr Howell Clague and the respiratory team at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and our colleagues in the North East Ambulance Service, we are now able to provide patients with the oxygen they need to stabilise their condition in a timely way in their own home.
Dr Clague said: “The innovation of being able to monitor patient’s oxygen and carbon dioxide more accurately will, we hope, allow more patients with COPD to be cared for in the safety and comfort of their own home. Reducing unnecessary hospital admission will also help relieve pressure on the hospital at busy times.”
Paul Liversidge, North East Ambulance Service Director of Operations, added: “Most people want to avoid a stay in hospital if they can so I’m sure patients with COPD will welcome this new initiative. It’s an exciting development and the North East Ambulance Service is delighted and proud to have been involved.
“Receiving oxygen on a short-term basis in this way will be a less stressful and much easier experience for the patient. Our crews are only too happy to make a patient’s life easier by delivering the oxygen to their home.”
Depending on the success of the Sunderland trial, the service could be extended to the other areas covered by NHS South of Tyne and Wear – Gateshead and South Tyneside.
GREAT-GRANDMOTHER Margaret Wright was the first patient to benefit from the new development.
Mrs Wright, aged 74, of Ryhope, has osteoporosis, which had led to hospital stays over the years.
Almost two years ago when it was discovered that she had COPD, she was in hospital for 10 days.
She was concerned, when she began experiencing breathing difficulties, that she was heading again for hospital admission.
She explained: “The first thing I said to the urgent care team was ‘Please try and keep me out of hospital’.
“I think I get better more quickly at home in my own surroundings and I’m lucky to have a big family to look after me.
“When they thought I might need oxygen, the urgent care team talked me through the procedure.
“They did the test and I had the oxygen within hours.
“This is a brilliant service. I can’t praise everyone involved highly enough.”