New cardiology services have been introduced to three Primary Care Centres in Galway (Ballinasloe, Mountbellew, Portumna) and to Monksland in Roscommon as part of the expansion of the Heart Failure Service developed by Portiuncula University Hospital and Galway Primary Care.
The Heart Failure Service received €330k from the Sláintecare Integration Fund at the end of 2019. This additional funding will be used to improve the heart failure service for patients and provide care closer to home, in line with Sláintecare. The funding will be used to recruit new staff and purchase equipment to enable the cardiac investigations department to assess and diagnose patients in the community and reduce the need for hospital appointments for these tests. An Advanced Nurse Practitioner will also be recruited to support the needs of patients in the community and avoid hospital admission where appropriate.
There are two types of cardiac investigations carried out by the Heart Failure Service in the Primary Care Centres: an echocardiogram which is an ultrasound test to assess the structure and function of the heart muscles and valves; and holter monitoring which is 24 hour continuous recording of the heart’s electrical rhythm to record any irregular heartbeat. Both tests are essential in helping to diagnose heart failure and to monitor patients’ progress with treatment.
Dr Aidan Flynn, Consultant Cardiologist and project lead at PUH said, “We want to be able to provide the same level of hospital clinic care in the community, with follow-up in the hospital as required for any patients whose condition changes. Heart failure is the most common reason for older people to need a hospital stay and these patients often require a lengthy stay in hospital. By providing access to cardiac investigations in the community, we can reduce the number of patients who need to be referred to the hospital to see a consultant for diagnosis. It also helps us to monitor patients, keep them well and out of hospital as well as streamline the pathways of care.”
Siobhan Woods, Primary Care Development Officer for Galway and Roscommon added, “Working in an integrated manner with Portiuncula University Hospital has been very positive. The delivery of GP direct access cardiac diagnostics in Primary Care Centres brings care closer to home for service users which is in line with Sláintecare’s aim to deliver a health and social care service that meets the needs of the population.”