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Health Secretary hails scheme that sees patients receive IV drugs at home

Bed days in the NHS have been reduced by more than 45,000, thanks to a scheme which gives patients IV drugs in other settings, including at home (Lynne Cameron/PA)
Bed days in the NHS have been reduced by more than 45,000, thanks to a scheme which gives patients IV drugs in other settings, including at home (Lynne Cameron/PA)

A new scheme that allows patients to receive IV drugs to treat infections outside of hospital – and sometimes even at home – is being further expanded after new figures showed it has cut NHS bed days by 45,000 so far this year.

The Out-Patient Antimicrobial Therapy (Opat) service – which is backed by £50 million of Scottish Government funding – allows people to be treated at home or in other out-patient settings, thereby reducing the need for hospital admission or long stays.

It currently operates in nine of Scotland’s 14 health board areas, but Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has said he wants to see the service “adopted across as many health boards as possible”.

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the Scottish Government was ‘determined’ to build on the success of the scheme (Andrew Milligan/PA)

He spoke as figures published by the Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group show that between January 17 2022 and August 21 2022 an average 250 people per week have been treated by the Opat service.

This has saved the NHS in Scotland more than 45,000 hospital admission bed days.

Antimicrobials treatments include drugs such as antibiotics, antivirals, and antifungals, and are used to prevent and treat infections.

Speaking about the scheme, Mr Yousaf said: “We know there is a real benefit to treating people at home where possible.

“We are determined to build on this success and want to see this approach adopted across as many health boards as possible.”

With hospital accident and emergency services under “significant pressure” the Health Secretary added ministers were “working at pace to deliver this scheme, and others like it, to provide more care in the community while reducing pressure on hospitals”.

Dr Andrew Seaton, chair of the Scottish Antimicrobial Prescribing Group and Consultant in Infectious Diseases, said: “Hospitals are under significant pressure as we try to recover from the effects of the Covid pandemic and there is a real need for initiatives to support recovery and promote different ways of caring for our patients traditionally managed in hospitals.

“Opat is an excellent example of how nurses, pharmacists and doctors can work together to provide high-quality patient-centred care without the need for a hospital bed.

“The focus now on further developing virtual capacity and new ways of working with support across Scotland for initiatives like ours is very welcome.”