Belfast patients suffering from long term lung problems and breathing difficulties, known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), will soon benefit from new community based respiratory services.
The Belfast Local Commissioning Group (LCG) has provided £646,000 funding for the transformation of respiratory services in the Belfast area through recently established Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) arrangements – a key element of Transforming Your Care.
Integrated Care Partnerships are networks of GPs, pharmacists, health and social care staff, voluntary and community groups and service users and carers, all of whom are working together to deliver joined up and person centred care. Throughout Northern Ireland, seventeen ICPs are now working in local areas to reshape how health and social care services are planned and delivered for frail older people and those with long term conditions.
Dr Dermot Maguire, Chairman and GP lead of the North Belfast ICP said:
“Respiratory disease is one of the main causes of emergency hospital admission. This investment will address the remaining gaps in the existing COPD care system in Belfast through a variety of enhanced services and a shift towards greater promotion of prevention, self-care, management of the condition in a community setting and the avoidance of unnecessary hospital admission, including for palliative care when required. The existing Community Team within the Belfast Trust will be expanded to include specialist GP, nursing and physiotherapy staff to become the ICP Respiratory Team. This will ensure respiratory care is delivered effectively through a fully coordinated and joined up approach involving all of the relevant health and social care providers.”
The expanded COPD services will include:
• Improved support for patients at home – GPs, along with the ICP Respiratory Team, can organise additional support in a patient’s home at any time. This will build the confidence of COPD patients and their carers to stay at home to manage a sudden worsening of their condition.
• Reducing the length of stay in hospital – where a COPD patient has been admitted to hospital, improved coordination between all health and social care providers will ensure a joined up package of care for patients when discharged and help to avoid readmission.
• 7 day working in the community – improved access to community care will enhance support for patients at home and enable hospital staff to discharge patients at weekends and provide support and advice to Out of Hours services.
• Greater support to promote self-care – additional education programmes for newly diagnosed COPD patients will be supported by voluntary and community organisations, in addition to quicker access to rehabilitation programmes in the community and improved access to free services to help people quit smoking.
Dr Terry Maguire, Chair of the Belfast Local Commissioning Group (LCG) said:
“There are approximately 8,500 patients with COPD known within the Belfast Trust area. In the majority of cases, smoking is the cause. If you have COPD and you continue to smoke, you will increase the damage to your lungs and your symptoms will worsen. Promoting self-care and supporting people to manage their condition themselves is therefore of utmost importance. Although COPD cannot be cured, its symptoms can be treated and managed to improve a patient’s quality of life. We know that free services to help people quit smoking are currently underused and GPs, pharmacists and local voluntary and community groups will now be working together to increase the number of people working to quit for good.”
The expansion of the ICP Respiratory Team and enhanced services for COPD patients will also be supported by a new home oxygen service. This will ensure that all patients who are prescribed oxygen are appropriately assessed and reviewed with the intention improving self-care and reducing the need for possible hospitalisation.