Untold opportunity: Clinical homecare and healthcare on the high street

Sarah Rickels, Head of Nursing at LloydsPharmacy Clinical Homecare, shares her thoughts on the value of community-based care and its potential to support the NHS recovery from COVID-19.

Clinical homecare is one of the lowest profile services offered in healthcare, and yet has the potential to play a role in solving some of the biggest challenges facing the NHS and secondary care in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the last challenging year, our nursing and healthcare teams have helped patients continue their treatment for chronic conditions at home and in specially designed healthcare centres in their communities. Despite this, there still seems to be little awareness of clinical homecare and the value it brings to patients and their families.

LloydsPharmacy Clinical Homecare has been working with the NHS for over 40 years to support patients with this type of service model, and we currently care for over 100,000 patients. Care can range from the straightforward delivery of specialist and high-value medication, to administering treatments for complex conditions that require clinical oversight from our nursing teams in the patient’s home or workplace. In addition to the homecare service, our healthcare centres, staffed by nurses, can deliver cancer treatments in local communities. More accessible than a hospital setting, these centres provide another convenient option for patients in need of care.

This model of healthcare delivery is centred around the patient as an individual, and offers patients greater choice and convenience by removing the need to travel daily, weekly, or monthly to unfamiliar secondary care settings, having to taking public transport, and perhaps arranging childcare or taking time off work. Having care consistently delivered and administered to patients at home or in their community makes a significant difference to a person’s quality of life, minimising the time they need to spend receiving treatment and giving them a greater sense of normalcy.

By working together with clinical homecare providers to enable better treatment of patients in their own homes or communities, NHS Trusts release more capacity in their secondary care settings which enables more treatment of patients with acute and complex needs.

The results are a win-win for patients and for NHS Trusts. In a recent satisfaction survey, 92% of patients said that they would recommend LPCH to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment, and the same survey logged a 93% satisfaction rating for LPCH’s nursing service.

Since I joined the organisation 3 years ago, LPCH has grown and so too have the number of treatments our nurses are able to administer in a community-based setting. Recently we announced that a new cancer medicine for treating women with HER2-positive breast cancer, Phesgo, will become available to suitable patients. During the pandemic we have also partnered with digital cancer care platform Careology, so we can remotely monitor patients and delivered remote nurse training to help patients anxious about Covid-19 administer their own treatments. LPCH works with partners and Trusts to constantly improve and evolve our service for the benefit of patients, including the portfolio of treatments we can administer and the innovative services we offer.

As the country faces the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to evolve the way that healthcare is delivered in order to meet the needs of the health system. The NHS faces historically high waiting lists of patients and healthcare experts suggest there are a significant number of people who have yet to be diagnosed. This means that pressure on secondary care settings will continue to increase.

COVID-19 has also accelerated a shift in what patients expect of the NHS and healthcare providers – there is an increasing expectation that care should be delivered in a way that is more convenient to the patient, particularly if that patient is “vulnerable”. These new expectations mean that digital and community-based healthcare services will need to expand in the coming years.

Clinical homecare has the potential to be one of the answers to these challenges. In addition to meeting the needs of patients, these services will help the NHS to tackle the backlog in elective care. LPCH patients have far fewer and shorter hospital visits, thereby freeing up capacity, and reducing the risk of hospital-acquired infections.

As the healthcare landscape evolves post-pandemic, we need to be ready to talk about and push for a greater focus on the services which can make a real difference, not just to patients but also to Trusts and NHS clinicians. By making clinical homecare central to their plans for NHS restoration over the coming years, NHSE and DHSC leaders will be unlocking new potential to support patients and NHS Trusts into the future.