Caring for people at home is key to reducing ED pressures

Keeping people out of hospital, caring for them in their own homes and reducing pressures on Emergency Departments (EDs) is policy in action. That was the message from Health Minister Jim Wells as he visited the Antrim South District Nursing Team in the Northern Trust yesterday and went out on a visit into the community with one of the district nurses, to see the work of the team.

The visit was part of a wider programme of events the Minister is undertaking throughout December to learn about the work of the Unscheduled Care Task Group, the primary aim of which is to eliminate all avoidable 12 hour delays in hospital ED’s.

Speaking after the meeting, the Minister said: “I met with District Nurses, Hospital Diversion Nurses and Health Care assistants in the Northern Trust and went out on a visit into the community. The excellent work they do is an embodiment of what we are trying to achieve in the health service, to help people stay well in their own homes, treat them there and as a result, reduce the pressures on our Emergency Departments. I was struck by the commitment, dedication and complex care provided by the District Nurse team. They are an essential and excellent part of the health service.”

In July this year, following the outcome of a review into unscheduled care carried out by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), the then Health Minister Edwin Poots announced the establishment of the Unscheduled Care Task Group, under the joint leadership of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer.

The Minister continued: “There is a real momentum and commitment towards improving the quality of urgent and emergency care services and reaching the clear aim of the Unscheduled Care Task Group of eliminating the need for patients to wait longer than 12 hours and making significant progress towards achieving the four hours waiting time standard.”

The Task Group aims to drive forward improvement in the delivery of unscheduled care in Northern Ireland. Each Trust has an implementation plan to eliminate all avoidable 12hr delays in EDs. A menu of services which will help improve performance and sustain these improvements has been developed. This will help Trust review their current services and aid commissioners to make decisions for the future.

Mr Wells said: “The Northern Trust has already made excellent progress with no 12 hour delays of patient in the Causeway Hospital for 460 days, and a significant reduction of 71% from 2011/12 to 2013/14 in Antrim Area Hospital.

“In order to achieve the challenging aims of the Task Group, we need to address particularly the design and implementation of more effective patient pathways for our frail elderly people and patients with respiratory conditions. To do this the whole system will have to work together including our GPs, ambulance service, community care teams as well as those staff who work in acute hospitals. That is why the work of the district nurses is so important, getting into the community and helping people to avoid a trip to the hospital is a win-win for everyone.

“I am convinced the aims of the Task Group can be achieved. The winter period will bring many challenges and when pressures emerge, we must support the frontline staff who have been tasked to deliver this transformation in unscheduled care.”

Tony Stevens, Chief Executive of the Northern Trust, said: “The Northern Trust has some of the best community services in Northern Ireland, if not the UK and I was delighted to welcome the Minister as he visited the District Nursing Team in Antrim South.

“The District Nursing team provide tailored, patient-centred care to support people in their own homes meaning they do not have to attend hospital unnecessarily. Over the last three years the Trust has increased the investment in district nursing services and I think it’s important that people are made aware of the wealth of services available to them in their own community. The Trust is committed to ensuring those services use our highly skilled staff and resources to their full potential.”


Jim Wells, Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, pictured with Tony Stevens, Trust Chief Executive, staff from Antrim South District Nursing Team,Wendy Magowan, Assistant Director, Primary Care and Community Care Directorate and Fiona Devlin, Royal College of Nursing council member and Chair of RCN NI Board

Page last updated:12 December 2014