A Cork consultant involved in the HSE and Department of Health’s Enhanced Community Care (ECC) programme has said that the community care model can help to alleviate pressures on hospitals.
Dr Emer Ahern, who is HSE clinical advisor and group lead for older persons services and geriatrician SI in trauma and orthopaedics at Cork University Hospital, said that the ECC programme “will improve outcomes for people” and, over time, result in less demand on hospital services.
The ECC programme is a strategic reform programme, aligned with Sláintecare proposals and priorities which seeks to deliver new and enhanced services in primary care and community settings, and supports the move toward a more community-centric model of healthcare.
The objective of the ECC is to achieve reductions in waiting lists, ED attendances, hospital admissions, acute hospital bed days used, referrals to hospitals for diagnostics, and in waiting times to access services.
The programme was allocated €195m this year to establish 96 community healthcare networks (CHNs), 30 community specialist teams for older persons, 30 community specialist teams for chronic disease, national coverage for community intervention teams, employ 3,500 additional staff, and to develop a volunteer-type model in collaboration with ALONE.
Speaking to The Echo, Dr Ahern said: “Initially, we focus on older adults with complex needs and then those with chronic disease, and so how all parts of the health system, including primary care, hospital care, specialist community care who all work together so people can get continuous co-ordinated care that is of value to the person and also of value to the system in terms of the outcomes that generates as a result of it.
“It’s in line with the Sláintecare policy, which is about receiving the right care, right place, right person, the right team, and it’s really about delivering that concept for people.
“It’s been proven that when you have a system like that, it will improve outcomes for people so people will actually be better and will be spending more of their life in health as opposed to in sickness.
“Over time, you will have less demand on hospital services because people will be living healthier lives as a result of these earlier and specialist interventions in the community.”
Dr Ahern added: “There is a community specialist team located in St Finbarr’s which serves the southside of the city and in St Mary’s Campus which serves the northside, so there is an alternative to assessing urgent specialist care outside of the hospital setting which wasn’t a service that was being provided up until now.”