Trust is committed to providing safe patient care locally
Leaders at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust have confirmed their commitment to providing as much care as close to home as possible for frail older people living in the Hexham area.
Almost two years on since opening The Northumbria hospital in Cramlington, doctors and nurses at Hexham General Hospital have been busy developing a unique service which has now seen over 1,000 older patients being cared for locally, rather than travelling further afield.
In July 2015, just after the opening of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital, work was already well underway to establish an ‘Elderly Assessment and Ambulatory Care Unit’ at Hexham General Hospital – the only one of its kind across the trust’s three general hospitals.
The dedicated centre, which is currently open Monday to Friday from 8am until 4pm, is run by specialist nurse practitioners and an elderly care doctor – Dr Fiona Conlon – who is based permanently in the unit at Hexham, with support also available from elderly care consultants Drs Paul Edmonds and Liesl Allcock.
Situated right next door to Hexham’s urgent care centre, the facility provides an environment where frail older people, who have complex care needs, can undergo appropriate tests and scans and be quickly assessed by a team with the right skills to determine the most appropriate care for their needs.
Patients are referred to Hexham’s elderly assessment and ambulatory care service by local GPs. A dedicated ambulance, funded by Northumbria Healthcare, is also in place in the Hexham area to bring in any elderly patients from the community who have been referred by their GP for urgent assessment. Any elderly patients who arrive via urgent care may also be looked after by the expert team if this is deemed necessary.
Between July 2015 and January 2017, a total of 1,004 patients have been directly admitted to the elderly care centre and ambulatory care service at Hexham. Over three-quarters of people were able to go home the same day following urgent assessment and almost a quarter were admitted directly to a bed at Hexham hospital to meet their care needs.
Dr Paul Edmonds, elderly care consultant at Hexham General Hospital, said: “Our absolute priority is always to provide the highest quality of safe patient care. We’ve been working hard to develop this service in Hexham so that, where possible, older people can receive their treatment closer to home, when it is safe to do so.
“For hundreds of older patients, who are often very frail and have complex care needs, we’ve been able to carry out their assessments locally and prevented any unnecessary travel further afield unless it is absolutely necessary.
“It is equally important, however, that people recognise that there will always be instances when some of our elderly patients need to go to The Northumbria hospital. This is absolutely the right thing to do as we have experts in a range of specialities readily available round-the-clock in Cramlington to care for those with serious or life threatening emergencies.”
Local Hexham GP, and West locality director at NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr David Shovlin, said: “Hexham’s elderly assessment service has grown considerably in the past 20 months thanks to the commitment of Dr Edmonds and his team at Northumbria Healthcare. It is a fantastic support for local GPs to know that we have a service to rapidly assess some of our most vulnerable older patients right here in Hexham.
“We are working closer than ever before with the team at Hexham hospital and with community colleagues to proactively plan care for our most vulnerable older patients who are benefitting hugely from having urgent assessments locally. By working together we are much better able to put effective plans in place to address any ongoing care needs, ensure people are not unnecessarily admitted to hospital and ensure they are supported with the right care package to help them live independently.”
Ann Wright, director of operations at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We recognise how important it is, especially for older patients who often use NHS services, to have as much care as close to home as possible and have had very positive feedback about our elderly assessment and ambulatory care service in Hexham.
“The service is clearly much valued by staff and patients alike and whilst the service is currently only in place during the week, we are looking into the best ways we might be able to expand it given the very difficult financial pressures facing the NHS and demands on our workforce.”
Thumbs up for Hexham service from grandmother Ann
Great grandmother Ann Shepherd is one patient from the Hexham area who has avoided being admitted to hospital thanks to the treatment she has been able to receive closer to home.
Ann, from Allendale, has been attending the elderly assessment centre at Hexham General Hospital regularly for the last couple of months for treatment of swelling in her legs.
By having her appointments during the week locally, she has been able to be monitored and given treatment then return to the comfort of her own home the same day.
The build-up of fluid in her legs had got so severe that Ann, 86, could not walk and was having difficulty getting in and out of bed. Her GP at Allendale Medical Practice referred her to the elderly assessment centre to enable her condition to be managed without her having to stay overnight in hospital.
Now thanks to the treatment, the swelling has gone down and Ann, who lives on her own, is much more mobile.
Ann said: “The nurses at the centre do such a fantastic job – you couldn’t even pay them in gold.
“They’ve looked after me so well and nothing has been too much trouble.
“I really couldn’t fault this service at all and anybody who needs to come here shouldn’t worry at all – the care is absolutely first-class. I can’t give it a higher recommendation.”
At the end of last year, Ann had spells in The Northumbria hospital, North Tyneside and Hexham general hospitals for a stomach infection and was keen to avoid having to go back into hospital if at all possible.
“I’m so pleased I haven’t had to go into hospital again and have been able to receive treatment locally and, above all, stay at home in my own bed with friends and family close-by,” she said.
“We’re so fortunate to have this service at Hexham.”