Care Continuity in a Crisis – How home healthcare in the UK plays an invaluable role.

With so much pressure on health systems across the world in dealing with the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic it is reassuring to know that a major health system like the NHS has the ability and agility to tap into alternative care pathways with home healthcare models to protect more lives, particularly those already coping with illness.  

The ability to adapt during a time such as this, in matters of life or death, demonstrates the invaluable role a home-based healthcare model can play at any time, not just in a crisis. 

Home healthcare is an option for over 300, 000 people in the UK living with a chronic illness or rare disease. It is a service where medications are delivered to a patients home or are administered in the home by a nurse. It is potentially life changing, enabling people to reduce their dependence on hospital visits, helping them and their families lead relatively normal lives and in many cases supporting them to go back to work. 

Such is the opportunity today with support from the NHS and pharmaceutical companies working together to provide a better care programmes for patients. 

During the current COVID -19 pandemic RareiTi spoke with home care patients and their families to find out how they are being affected and what lessons can be learned from those who are used to receiving important elements of their health care at home rather than in a hospital or clinic setting.

Britain’s home healthcare providers also gave some helpful insights:

  • Service reliability in a home healthcare model is essential at the best of times, but with the impact of COVID 19, this is particularly significant; the more patients that can be treated at home reduces the impact on essential services the NHS is providing during this pandemic. COVID-19 has obviously created some challenges for home care patients but those who are used to home care and who now need to practise social distancing want to make sure they are not putting themselves at risk with deliveries or nurse visits; so significant focus has gone on to ensure that these services which quite often include the provision of life maintaining or lifesaving medicines are not disrupted in any way.  
  • Clinical quality standards in home healthcare are required to be of high standard; pharmacists and nurses must be equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to support patients at home helping them to stay at home. In most cases where families have lived with a child or relative living with a rare condition, they have been able to establish a balance in life that allows for normal things to take place like attending work or school. Being able to support that balance by the delivery routine is something to be protected from disruption.
  • A range of pretty complex therapies can be provided outside a hospital setting and in the current climate this can be implemented pretty quickly.  In the UK the provision of chemotherapy at home is not uncommon and because of COVID -19 more cancer patients are being offered chemotherapy at home.   The benefits of which are two-fold: cancer therapies need not be disrupted due to the extra pressures on the NHS and cancer patients can self- isolate at home.

Of course, operationally, demands are high, but teams are equipped with the required standard of personal protective equipment PPE, are all trained in social distancing and infection prevention and control.  High acuity home care models work to a fine-tuned operation, where highly qualified professionals are rallying in record time to respond to a significantly pressured health service in an unprecedented situation. 

Patients who could be part of a home- based clinical trial, those who need medications for treatment on compassionate grounds, those who need treatment continuity who would otherwise have to leave the house, for them, now and in the future, this model applies and is offered as part of a RareiTi Care access programme.  

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