Health boss foresees more home treatment

UP to 40% of all out-patient hospital appointments could be dealt with in people's homes, it is claimed.The claim was made by 54-year-old Neil McKay, who four weeks ago became chief executive of the new East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA).

UP to 40% of all out-patient hospital appointments could be dealt with in people's homes, it is claimed.

The claim was made by 54-year-old Neil McKay, who four weeks ago became chief executive of the new East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA).

Mr McKay, a former deputy chief executive of the NHS Executive and chief operating officer of the Department of Health, was at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds this week where he unveiled a radical outline for the future of medical care in the region.

His plans ranged from consultants visiting patients at home, staff sharing between hospitals and giving individual trusts, such as hospitals, more control over their own futures and services.

Mr McKay said between 30 and 40% of all outpatient services in hospitals could be dealt with in people's homes. And he said he was keen, in certain circumstances, to see consultants carrying out their rounds at the homes of out-patients.

The message from residents, he said, was growing numbers of people would rather be treated in their homes.

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He said: “Between 30 and 40 per cent of out-patients can be looked after outside of hospitals, either in primary care settings or at home.

“There is a massive amount of care that can be provided in people's homes such as people with long-term conditions and people who are acutely ill.”

Using the example of a fall victim who would traditionally be taken into hospital for treatment, Mr McKay said many such patients could be equally well catered for at home.

“The concept of community care is very exciting. I can envisage GPs existing within community hospitals and taking care into people's homes. It is really exciting and we are on the way. Community hospitals have an important part of play in this.”

Asked about the future of accident and emergency provision at both Ipswich Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital - which is currently subject to a major review by the SHA - Mr McKay said he was unable to speculate at the current time.

But, although he admitted he could not guarantee either hospital would still have an accident and emergency department in five years' time, he said: “Any major changes to accident and in emergency will be decided locally.

“I cannot guarantee the services that these places will be providing will be the same as they currently are. I can guarantee there will be vibrant hospitals.”

He did not rule out the possibility of hospitals sharing staff or services if hospital chief executives felt they were unable to meet the quality of care they were legally responsible for.

For example, if a hospital did not have capacity to offer a safe and high quality accident and emergency department, that provision might be transferred to another hospital.

In terms of hospital finances - in which Ipswich Hospital has debts of £24 million and West Suffolk Hospital £12 million - he laid down a firm line.

Mr McKay said the Department of Health could not write off these debts because doing so would mean taking money from elsewhere in the public sector.

He said different priorities pursued in the past was the underlying cause of trusts' debts. Balancing the books, he said, was now a top priority adding: “They are increasingly better managed and people are talking about how to save money. People have got to get rid of these debts.”

The results of the SHA's review of acute hospital services across the region is expected in the next few weeks.