A scheme to treat patients at home instead of in Stevenage's Lister Hospital is said to be making the emergency department "a safer place" and is now being piloted by the East of England Ambulance Service.

With pressure on providing hospital beds increasing, the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust has been implementing Hospital at Home - a scheme that provides hospital-level care for acute conditions in a patient's home through multi-disciplinary healthcare teams.

Kevin O'Hart, director of improvement at the NHS trust, explained: "When that service first got stood up during the pandemic, the hospital [Lister] was under massive pressure from the number of patients coming in with Covid.

"This new service was able to allow us to safely step down patients back into their own home under the care of Hertfordshire Community Trust, so that they could have ongoing treatment to monitor their oxygen levels, have visits from healthcare staff, nursing staff and therapists, and continue their treatment outside of the hospital environment. As you would imagine, that was received with excellent patient satisfaction."

Kevin said Hospital at Home is used to help keep patients safely out of hospital through early intervention.

"When patients under the care of existing community services, or their GP, are identified as beginning to deteriorate, the community trust - through the Hospital at Home service - can step up the intensity of care and interventions that those patients can have in their own home. For the majority of those patients, they can avoid hospital admission and continue to go about their normal daily business. That obviously then helps reduce pressures on our emergency department, making that a safer place."

Kevin said the other key aspect of Hospital at Home is "supportive discharge" from hospital. 

He explained: "We are working with our key stakeholders and partners about new pathways so we can discharge patients earlier in their stay in hospital, back into their home to get relevant interventions and support from the community trust."

To help patients get the help they need more quickly, the East of England Ambulance Service says it is now piloting new ways of integrated working, including Hospital at Home, to allow ambulance referrals, where appropriate, to be transferred to a community partner – potentially eliminating the need for patients to go to emergency departments for diagnosis and further treatment.

Tom Abell, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service, said: "We believe this will deliver real benefits for patients in getting them the help they need. 

"This will help free up our dedicated people to see patients who most need our care and help reduce pressure on hospitals, reducing handover delays at emergency departments. Emergency patients with time-critical care will always be taken straight to hospital for treatment.

"We are rolling out this approach across our region to improve care for patients."

Elliot Howard-Jones, chief executive of Hertfordshire Community Trust, said: "We are working together to reduce pressure on other services while still providing quality local healthcare.”