Press release

Reduction in hospital admissions and attendance highlights progress in transforming healthcare for all

HSE National Conference on Enhanced Community Care told 91% of patients with chronic disease are now fully managed routinely close to home.

Earlier today (Thursday, 7th September 2023), the second national HSE Enhanced Community Care Conference (ECC) outlined how hospital attendances and admissions are down as a result of the ECC Programme.

As part of Sláintecare, ECC emphasises general practice, primary care, and community-based services to provide care closer to home, reducing acute hospital attendance and admission. The work of the ECCs also plays a pivotal role in the Urgent and Emergency Care Plan 2023, as part of key hospital-avoidance measures.

Noel Ridge, a patient at the Galway Integrated Care Hub, where services are provided in an integrated fashion between GPs, practice nurses, community specialist teams and hospital specialist teams, highlighted how the hub had benefitted him: 

"I've had three heart attacks and been in the hospital nine times in the last 18 months. But I've come through it. The support I receive at the hub provides great comfort because I'm not waiting for hospital appointments that are months or a year apart.

If I don't feel well, I can call the hub right away and explain what's happening. Overall, visiting the hub is much more convenient as it is closer to home and appointments are scheduled at specific times, which reduces a lot of stress."

At the conference, held in Dublin Castle, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and stakeholders reflected on the significant progress made. The conference highlighted how service users are moving through the ECC’s integrated pathways of care, resulting in improved outcomes for people, and demonstrating the transformative potential of integrated, community-based healthcare in Ireland.

  • 91% of patients with chronic disease are, routinely, fully managed in primary care via the Chronic Disease Management in General Practice programme.
  • GPs reviewed 309,778 patients, from January –July 2023, as part of the Chronic Disease Management Programme.
  • Community Diagnostics Teams provided 196,988 radiology scans, between Jan –July. It is expected the total scans conducted will surpass the 253,172 conducted in 2022. This is extremely important as timely access to diagnostics meant an an 89% reduction in the number of patients requiring referral to emergency departments or acute medical units.
  • In the first seven months of 2023, there were 48,230 patient contacts by the teams supporting older people - and 64% of their patients were discharged home, avoiding a potential hospital admission.
  • The investment of clinical frontline staff in the ECC Programme is unprecedented. Over 78% (2,733.2 WTE) of the planned whole time equivalent (full-time) staff have now been secured.

The following roles are onboarded or at an advanced stage of recruitment; 96 CHN Managers and Assistant Directors of Public Health Nursing (ADPHNs); 73 of the 96 General Practitioner (GP) Leads; 30 of the 30 Operational Leads for ICPOP and 27 of the 30 Operational Leads for ICPCD, 61.5 of 80.5 Consultants for ICPOP and ICPCD.

Opening the conference, Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly TD, said: 

“The Enhanced Community Care Programme represents our unwavering dedication to providing exceptional healthcare to our communities.

This crucial part of the Sláintecare Programme is a valuable resource providing both short-term and long-term benefits to the reform of healthcare delivery.

The ECC programme has played, and will continue to play, an important role in ongoing planning for the Health Service, particularly through the development of alternative pathways, including ECC support for those at risk of hospital admission, expansion of GP out-of-hours service, and the implementation of pathways to support patient discharge.

We will continue to press ahead with the full implementation of this €240m programme which underscores our commitment to placing patients at the heart of healthcare; providing care closer to home, while simultaneously alleviating pressure on our hospitals."

Speaking at the conference, Bernard Gloster, CEO of the Health Service Executive said: 

“The ECC Programme continues to demonstrate significant progress in its implementation and daily operations. The core ethos of this €240m Programme revolves around delivering timely and effective treatments, while minimising unnecessary referrals and hospital admissions through a 'home first' approach, where safety and appropriateness are paramount.

The substantial investment commitment by the Government - as well as the commitment shown by the HSE community to implement the ECC Programme - is now beginning to yield tangible results. The ECC Programme is redefining healthcare delivery, ensuring proximity to the communities we serve."

Keynote speaker at the event, Professor David Colin Thomé OBE, said:

“In Ireland and the UK, we stand at a healthcare crossroads, grappling with evolving landscapes. With Ireland’s aging population and increasing chronic conditions, integrated care delivered closer to home becomes pivotal. Sláintecare's ambition for a universal health service aligned with community care is impressive.

The Enhanced Community Care Programme's goal is bold and well-defined.  By shifting focus to general practice, primary care and community-based services, the approach paves the way for comprehensive care pathways, care closer to people’s homes and a reduction in unnecessary hospital admissions. Moreover, as the programme matures, Ireland's distinctive structure empowers community and primary care to drive broader health transformation, potentially reshaping services, and alleviating burdens across the system.”

See for more information and to read patient case studies on how ECC has improved their health.

Follow the ECC Conference on social @HSELive  #ECCConference23.

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