Managing conditions at home

HOME HELP COOPER2 Telemonitoring and changes to memory services are helping to improve services for patients in the community.

Sixty-five year old John Hicks lives in the County Down village of Rostrevor and suffers from the respiratory disease emphysema which causes coughing and shortness of breath. His experience of telemonitoring, over the last two years, is one example of how technology can practically improve care for patients living at home.

“Telemonitoring has really helped me understand a lot more about my condition,” he says. “I take my readings every day and I now know what my readings should or shouldn’t be. Having this service has given me the confidence to help me manage my condition.”

The system monitors John’s readings each day and alerts his nurse to any problems. John has not been in hospital since last autumn and his able to continue with his volunteering work as a trainer with the Chest, Heart and Stroke Association in Newry and Mourne.

The roll-out of telemonitoring is one of several changes designed to improve community services being implemented by Transforming Your Care.

Across the health and social care system, £1 million has been invested in memory services for dementia patients over the last year; this follows on from an identical investment in the previous year. After listening to people with dementia and their carers, the Health Service decided to prioritise psychological support, Alzheimer’s support staff at memory clinics, and follow-up support at home if required. Within staff teams, a new role (the navigator) will be introduced to direct dementia patients and their carers to the relevant services.

Another £500,000 is being invested in respite care and short break initiatives for carers. The electronic care record system is also being rolled out and is due to cover the whole resident population of Northern Ireland by the end of this year.

Speaking to agendaNi, Health and Social Care Board Chief Executive John Compton said that he has seen “real, meaningful and positive change” since Minister Poots endorsed the Transforming Your Care proposals in March of this year.

“We are continuing to proceed with energy to make the change happen over the next three to five years,” Compton commented. “The board, health and social care trusts and other organisations are developing detailed plans for how the changes will be implemented.”

Successful changes included the resettlement of people from long-stay mental health institutions (through the Bamford reforms), and the increased use of technology to support people living with long-term conditions such as diabetes.

“As we move forward,” he continued, “it is really important that we continue to implement change in a measured and thoughtful way and are committed to continuing to engage extensively with a wide range of people, groups and organisations.” This would be “essential” to ensure that any changes are lasting and can “make a difference for everyone” affected by them.

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