The new service will focus on community care
A proposed Heart Failure Integrated Service for Donegal is one of the successful projects to benefit from the €20m Sláintecare Integration Fund announced by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD recently.
The new service will focus on community care and integrating the services at Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH) with the services provided by the Community Healthcare Organisation 1 (CHO1) in Donegal in line with the Sláintecare goals of shifting care to the community, reducing waiting lists and improving experiences for patients.
The new service will comprise two teams of nurses who specialise in treating patients with heart failure – both teams will be split between the hospital and the community to ensure a seamless journey for patients in and out of hospital as required. The new service will also include a cardiac physiologist based 80% of the time in the community and 20% of the time in LUH. The new service will support the early diagnosis of heart failure by providing community clinics where patients can access echocardiograms; improved access to consultant cardiologist support for GPs; education of patients and families in caring for someone with heart failure; and fast-tracking patients who need urgent assessment.
Cathy Farrell, heart failure clinical nurse specialist at Letterkenny University Hospital, said heart failure was the most common reason for older people to need a hospital stay and these patients often require a lengthy stay in hospital.
"We know from research that when patients have access to a structured heart failure programme – like what we are proposing – then they are less likely to need hospitalisation and will have a better quality of life. Also, if GPs are able to refer their patients for echocardiograms in the community, they are able to reduce the number of patients who need to be referred to the hospital to see a consultant for diagnosis.”
Seán Murphy, general manager, LUH added: “Around 3,200 people in Donegal have a diagnosis of heart failure and the same number again have asymptomatic left ventricular dysfunction which means they are at risk of developing heart failure. Currently the majority of these patients have to be seen by a consultant in the hospital to get a diagnosis and this may involve a lengthy wait. The proposed Heart Failure Integrated Service for Donegal will integrate the care from the hospital with the care from the community and this will mean faster diagnosis and a better experience for patients by providing services closer to home.”
The chief officer, for CHO 1, John Hayes, welcomed the Sláintecare Integration funding stating this project would aid in enhancing and developing services for patients across Donegal.
"It will aid in the delivery of quality healthcare to the most vulnerable in our health system. I look forward to working with the project team in the implementation of this initiative,” he said.