Press release

Community care improving health outcomes and experiences for patients across Ireland

Published: 7 May 2024

New figures published today by the HSE show significant progress for patients, particularly older people and those living with chronic disease.

Improvements, achieved through delivering care closer to the home, include:

● Approx. 65 percent reduction in number of people waiting more than 12 months for care: new integrated care consultants have helped reduce the number of people waiting longest (>12 months) for cardiology, respiratory and type-2 diabetes care by 65% during 2023.

● Community Specialist Teams have contributed to reductions in chronic disease hospital admissions by 16 percent between 2019 and 2023, compared to a 3.5 percent decline in overall medical admissions during the same period.

● Readmission rates decreased by over 23 percent for people with chronic disease, lower than the 5 percent reduction for all medical patients between 2019 and 2023.

● Older People are being supported to live well in their communities: Nearly 100,000 patient contacts by the community specialist teams for older people. Of the patients seen 74 percent discharged home with community based interventions, avoiding acute hospital admissions. As few as 3 percent of patients were admitted to long term care, with only 6 percent requiring acute care.

● 109 hospital beds saved per day: There were 95,962 referrals to Community Intervention Teams resulting in 39,772 bed days saved through timely interventions and treatments administered at home in 2023.

● Record number of radiology scans, with 335,000 carried out in 2023, up more than 85,000 in 2022, through the GP Access to Community Diagnostics (GPACD) scheme, reducing referrals to Emergency Departments, Acute Medical Units and outpatient departments.

Expressing gratitude to staff and acknowledging the difference the programme is making for patients, HSE CEO Bernard Gloster said:

“Thanks to the dedication and commitment of Enhanced Community Care teams around the country, we are making great strides in diagnosing, treating and supporting older people and those living with chronic disease. Timely and appropriate care and support is provided to each patient at the right place and at the right time, helping them to avoid unnecessary hospital referral and admission and ultimately improving their overall health outcome which is a key priority of our health service.

Waiting lists are also an important area of focus, and it is encouraging to see that the appointment of 36 newly appointed integrated care consultants are already making a big impact for patients by helping reduce the numbers who have been waiting over a year by providing timely specialist opinion to GPs and patients.”

Welcoming the progress made for older patients, Dr Emer Ahern, HSE National Clinical Advisor & Group Lead for Older Persons, said, “The ICPOP Community Specialist Team completed nearly 100,000 patient contacts. The team sees a complex mix of patients including those with frailty, reduced mobility, polypharmacy and cognitive concerns. Of the patients seen, 74 percent were discharged home, with appropriate community based interventions. Only 3 percent were admitted to long term care. The data highlights how important these services are in preventing unnecessary hospital admissions for older adults and providing timely, tailored support to empower patients to thrive in their own communities, closer to home.”

Pointing to the difference made for patients living with chronic disease, Dr Sarah O’Brien, HSE National Clinical Advisor & Group Lead for Chronic Disease, said:

“The new community specialist teams are providing access to specialist multidisciplinary services within the community to drive early diagnosis, proactive management, hospital avoidance and ultimately, improved outcomes for individuals with chronic diseases such as heart failure, COPD, asthma and diabetes living in the community. They provide an additional layer of specialist care in the community to support GPs and primary care staff to care for patients with more complex chronic disease and multimorbidity as close to home as possible. Thanks to this approach, over 90 percent of patients attending their GP for structured chronic disease management are managed solely by their GP in their communities, instead of attending hospital for the ongoing management of their condition, saving the patient valuable time and money whilst also reducing pressures on hospitals.”

Speaking about the large increase in use of the GP access to Community Diagnostics scheme, Dr David Hanlon, National Clinical Advisor for Primary Care, said: "Since its launch in 2021, demand for the GP Access to Community Diagnostics Scheme has more than doubled. This scheme is supporting faster diagnoses, shorter hospital wait times, improving patient experience and supports GPs to manage more patients in Primary Care settings, reducing hospital admissions”.

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