Hospital at home: How patients are getting care at home in Stockton and Hartlepool

Patient receiving observations
The Hospital at Home service can be tailored to suit individual patients. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

When Vince Magee was taken ill, he was delighted to have the chance to be treated at home.

Throughout his life, Mr Magee has never needed an overnight stay in hospital and was keen to maintain that record.

Instead, he took part in Hospital at Home, which runs across Stockton and Hartlepool.

Under the scheme, Mr Magee had regular visits from a team of people who provided treatment and monitored his progress.

Mr Magee told me: "I didn't want to go to hospital because I've never spent a night in hospital in my life."

When I asked him whether he had benefitted from staying at home, his answer was unequivocal.

"No doubt, no doubt," he told me, "because I wouldn't have settled in hospital.

"I'd recommend it."

Hospital at Home was first launched across the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust area several years ago, to treat people with the lung condition COPD.

In autumn 2022 it was expanded, to include patients who are older or frail.

The programme is now growing rapidly.

It is a partnership between the NHS trust and local GPs, with social care services also involved.

Care can include regular blood tests and other assessments, as well as more tailored treatments.

Community practitioner Jenny Redman explained how they are able to adapt to the needs of each patient: She said: "We have a GP at the top, we have other services such as therapy, pharmacists, nurses so if we feel the patient needs closer monitoring, we can have somebody come in and monitor them up to four times a day."

While a stay in hospital cannot always be avoided, it can bring complications, especially for older patients.

Notably, there is the chance of picking up infections, along with the risk of falling, developing confusion and loss of physical condition after spending time in a hospital bed.

Dr Arunkumar Annamalai says the aim is to provide a hospital standard of treatment, in a person's home. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The clinician leading the programme for the hospital trust is Dr Arunkumar Annamalai.

While he is keen for patients to avoid the risks of a hospital stay, he stresses the scheme is not about keeping people away - if they need to be admitted.

"Hospital at Home is definitely not about hospital admission avoidance", Dr Annamalai said.

"It's providing care closer to home in a safe and possible way."

It is still early days for the service when it comes to treating patients who are older and more frail.

At the end of its first winter, Stockton GP Dr Ferrari Kwan - who is helping to spearhead the project - believes it is making good progress.

He described patients as "ecstatic" after avoiding a hospital stay.

"We have managed to keep patients at home with their respiratory illnesses, with potential waterworks infections, all of this that would, historically, have been managed in the hospital."

Where could the service go from here?

In January, the Government announced plans to scale-up services across England to treat more people at home.

According to North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, 523 patients were treated through its Hospital at Home programme between April 2022 and the end of February 2023.

Dr Arunkumar Annamalai believes there is potential for future expansion locally, such as treating patients with heart failure and even children's medicine.

The signs are that we can expect to see more of this approach in the future.

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