HSE and Department of Health Host Enhanced Community Care Conference 2022

Bringing Care Closer to Home

Today, (Thursday, 1st September 2022) the HSE and the Department of Health is hosting the Enhanced Community Care Conference 2022. Today’s event is designed to bring together our community teams from all over the country to mark progress on implementing the Enhanced Community Care Programme and support ongoing change as our teams invest in community services and improve patient experience.

Attendees will hear from senior colleagues in the HSE, expert speakers working in integrated care, including the keynote speaker Professor Sir Chris Ham, former CEO of the Kings Fund UK, and also representatives from our HSE teams around the country about the programme’s latest developments, and the first hand experiences of people benefitting from this programme.

Speaking at the event, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly describes the significant investment and development in the new programme:

Enhanced Community Care represents a €240 million investment in integrated community health services, in line with Sláintecare. This programme builds on years of planning and is making enormous progress, providing the building blocks to address long-term problems in our health service. The teams working in primary care, in community services, and in new specialist teams and hubs are reducing dependence on hospital services. This means more services closer to where people live, especially for older people and people with chronic disease.”

Paul Reid, HSE CEO, underlines the importance of bringing services closer to home and acknowledges staff for their dedication and commitment in rolling out the new programme:

The HSE’s Enhanced Community Care programme is improving the experience of our patients and aims to reduce our reliance on hospitals. The fast pace of this implementation would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of the committed staff working around the country. So far over 2,200 staff have been recruited or at an advanced stage of employment and we have an additional recruitment of 1,400 staff planned for 2022. 87 Community Healthcare Networks have been set up and we have established 21 Community Specialist Teams for Older People and 14 Community Specialist Teams for Chronic Disease so far.

Today’s conference will bring together the full range of stakeholders in health and social care services to learn, network and share their knowledge and experience. I am delighted to celebrate the progress made in implementing the programme and welcome attendees for an exciting and thought-provoking day.”

Speaking at the event, keynote speaker Professor Sir Chris Ham said:

“Ireland’s ageing population and changing disease burden – with increased prevalence of chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma – requires care to be joined up around patients, especially those with complex needs.

International evidence shows that integrated care can improve patient outcomes and patient experience by improving communication between health care teams and putting the needs of patients at the centre of their concerns. And by strengthening community services, it can moderate pressures on hospitals.

With Enhanced Community Care, Ireland has made an impressive start on this journey and is moving in line with international best practice. I commend the HSE on their work to date, especially against the backdrop of a global pandemic. The challenge now is to build on the foundations that have been laid and support health care staff in making services fit for the future.

Providing more care in people’s homes or close to home will allow ageing and vulnerable populations to maintain their independence and live well in the community. Hospitals can then focus on providing specialist care for people with acute medical conditions as well as working more closely with general practices and community teams.”

An essential theme underlying this programme is developing a new, integrated model of care, which is responsive to the needs of local communities. This requires strong leadership and ownership at local level, bringing the relationship between General Practice, primary care and specialist community care into a much more patient focused and integrated model of care in each locality.”

Dr Emer Ahern, HSE National Clinical Lead for Older People said:

“We now have 21 of the planned 30 Specialist Integrated Care Teams for Older People in place across the country giving people equity of access to a range of clinics, including rapid access clinics; falls clinics; memory assessment & support services; frailty clinics and several nurse-led and therapy-led clinics. Older people want access to the specialist care they need in their homes and communities. These teams help prevent hospital admissions for older people every week, making a difference that matters to the older people in our community.”

David Hanlon, GP and HSE National Clinical Advisor, Primary Care said:

“The ECC programme is built on partnerships between GPs, primary, community and hospital care teams and professionals, and as we implement it, GPs across Ireland are developing ever closer working relationships with other parts of the health service in our communities. This is delivering real change for our patients in general practice – as well as taking part in primary care teams, over 90% of GPs are now delivering dedicated chronic disease consultations with patients, alongside hugely improved access to x-rays, MRIs and other scans – due to achieve over 200,000 patient scans by the end of 2022.”

Celine Naughton, a patient under the care of the Community Healthcare East respiratory team, explains how the integrated care programme has made a difference in her life:

“After a year of wheezing coughing and ongoing issues with my breathing, my GP referred me for a spirometry test which indicated that I had asthma. My doctor said I needed a consultation with a specialist respiratory nurse. I thought I’d be on a waiting list for god knows how long, but instead of that she got in touch with a local specialist respiratory nurse directly and within a couple of weeks I got to see her in the Integrated Care Hub in Bray, right here on my doorstep. She gave me all the time I needed, and listened to what my lifestyle was like and advised on a number of practical, everyday changes I could make to improve my breathing. Now, six months later, I feel this support has changed my life for the better. I hope everybody gets to avail of a facility like this as I’ve been able to do.”

For more on the Enhanced Community Care programme see hse.ie/ecc.

Last updated on: 01 / 09 / 2022