|Summary / Abstract |
Older people represent a significant proportion of patients admitted to hospital as a medical emergency. Compared with the care of younger patients, their care is more challenging, their stay in hospital is much longer, their risk of hospital-acquired problems is much higher and their 28-day readmission rate is much greater.
To compare the clinical effectiveness, microcosts and cost-effectiveness of a Community In-reach Rehabilitation And Care Transition (CIRACT) service with the traditional hospital-based rehabilitation (THB-Rehab) service in patients aged ≥ 70 years.
A pragmatic randomised controlled trial with an integral health economic study and parallel qualitative appraisal was undertaken in a large UK teaching hospital, with community follow-up. Participants were individually randomised to the intervention (CIRACT service) or standard care (THB-Rehab service). The primary outcome was hospital length of stay; secondary outcomes were readmission within 28 and 91 days post discharge and super spell bed-days (total time in NHS care), functional ability, comorbidity and health-related quality of life, all measured at day 91, together with the microcosts and cost-effectiveness of the two services. A qualitative appraisal provided an explanatory understanding of the organisation, delivery and experience of the CIRACT service from the perspective of key stakeholders and patients.
In total, 250 participants were randomised (n = 125 CIRACT service, n = 125 THB-Rehab service). There was no significant difference in length of stay between the CIRACT service and the THB-Rehab service (median 8 vs. 9 days). There were no significant differences between the groups in any of the secondary outcomes. The cost of delivering the CIRACT service and the THB-Rehab service, as determined from the microcost analysis, was £302 and £303 per patient respectively. The overall mean costs (including NHS and personal social service costs) of the CIRACT and THB-Rehab services calculated from the Client Service Receipt Inventory were £3744 and £3603 respectively [mean cost difference £144, 95% confidence interval –£1645 to £1934] and the mean quality-adjusted life-years for the CIRACT service were 0.846 and for the THB-Rehab service were 0.806. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) from a NHS and Personal Social Services perspective was £2022 per quality-adjusted life-year. Although the CIRACT service was highly regarded by those who were most involved with it, the emergent configuration of the service working across organisational and occupational boundaries was not easily incorporated by the current established community services.
The CIRACT service did not reduce hospital length of stay or short-term readmission rates compared with the standard THB-Rehab service, although it was highly regarded by those who were most involved with it. The estimated ICER appears cost-effective although it is subject to much uncertainty, as shown by points spanning all four quadrants of the cost-effectiveness plane. Microcosting work-sampling methodology provides a useful method to estimate the cost of service provision. Limitations in sample size, which may have excluded a smaller reduction in length of stay, and lack of blinding, which may have introduced some cross-contamination between the two groups, must be recognised. Reducing hospital length of stay and hospital readmissions remains a priority for the NHS. Further studies are necessary, which should be powered with larger sample sizes and use cluster randomisation (to reduce bias) but, more importantly, should include a more integrated community health-care model as part of the CIRACT team.