Minister Visits Health Hubs

27th June 2022
Pic 4: L/R: Nicki Patterson (Deputy Chief Executive/Director of Nursing, Primary Care & Older Peoples Services), Kirsty McArthur, (GP), Jenny Addley (Consultant Gastroenterologist), Health Minister, Robin Swann MLA, Dr Jennifer Elder (Consultant in Respiratory & General Medicine), Karyn Dowie (Ward Manager) and Kevin O’Brien (Respiratory Nurse Specialist)

Health Minister, Robin Swann, MLA has visited the Respiratory and Gastroenterology hubs at the Ulster Hospital to meet with staff and patients to take a look at the remarkable work being done to help prevent unnecessary hospital admissions and ease pressures on the healthcare system.

These hubs represent two out of eight newly developed specialty specific rapid assessment services developed in the South Eastern HSC Trust, with 15,000 patients being seen across all hubs during 2021/2022.
The Respiratory Hub is a Consultant-led service supported by Advanced Practitioner Physiotherapists and Specialist Respiratory Nurses. It offers respiratory patients an alternative to hospitalisation for both diagnosis and management of their condition. Referral to the hub is through the Emergency Department or GP and operates Monday to Friday 9-5pm. Running throughout the COVID pandemic, a second site at Lagan Valley Hospital was opened due to high demand. The hub can treat a range of conditions such as Asthma, COPD, COVID related, Pleural Effusion, Bronchiectasis, Lung Cancer, Pulmonary Embolism, Pneumonia and Pneumothorax.

The Gastroenterology Hub is Consultant-Led and is supported by Gastro Specialist Nurses, Dietitians and Pharmacists. The hub allows patients direct access to Consultant and Specialist Nurse clinics to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions, expedite hospital discharge with rapid access consults and diagnostics open to Primary Care, Emergency Department and hospital in-patients. Conditions that can be treated within the Gastroenterology hub include painless Jaundice, Acute Diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel disorders, upper gastrointestinal bleed and feeding device problems. Referral to the Gastroenterology Hub is through the Emergency Department or GP and operates from Monday to Friday 8am – 5pm.
One of the main benefits of the hubs is to divert patients who may attend the Emergency Department frequently as a result of their condition, which in turn reduces unnecessary waits and hospital admissions and improves the overall patient experience.

Within the Gastroenterology Hub, 100% of patients who attended rated the service as excellent. From January – March 2022, 428 new patients and 367 review patients were seen in the hub.

In the Respiratory Hub, during January – March 2022, 107 patients avoided hospital admission, 120 patients avoided repeat ED attendances, 21 early discharges were facilitated and an estimated 235 bed days were saved. Patients universally have praised this expert clinical team and commented that “they had never had such a comprehensive assessment of their lungs.”

Health Minister Robin Swann commented: “I was delighted to meet with the patients and staff at the Respiratory and Gastroenterology hubs and to hear about the real benefits being made to people’s lives who are living with chronic respiratory and gastro conditions. The dedication and professionalism of all the hub staff I met was evident from the start and they are well deserving of their award winning status.”

Speaking at the visit, Dr Jennifer Elder, Consultant in Respiratory & General Medicine said, “We know from the patients themselves how valuable our service is, but it was amazing to share our vision for Ambulatory Care with the Health Minister and let him meet just a few of the many patients who have benefited. Ultimately, it is care delivered in the way we would want for our own family members, with access to all the multi-professional team in a calm, friendly and efficient setting. We are very grateful to the Minister for visiting and we hope that this model could lead the way regionally for Ambulatory Care.”

Mark Fensome, a patient who uses the Gastro hub added, “For over 12 months, I have been attending the hub which has avoided me having to go to the Emergency Department and be admitted into hospital. This is a life changing service and it is so reassuring to have all the team in the hub to contact if I need them. I would like to thank the staff in the hub for their 100% dedication and care they have given me. I have just received confirmation today that I have been placed on the Liver Transplant list. The support that I have received has been first class!”
Respiratory hub patient, Chris Canning spoke of his experience and stated, “I was referred to the Respiratory hub by my GP and I received a phone call from Dr Elder to come up to the hub. I could hardly speak on the phone as my breathing was deteriorating, I did not think I would make it through the weekend without help and was so relieved to be seen so quickly. After several litres of fluid had been drained from my lung, my oxygen levels had recovered and I was finally able to breathe. The level of care was outstanding, from the Consultant to the friendly Nurse and Physio team. Second to none , a dedicated and well run operation!”