Aims and objectives. To evaluate the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a community nurse-supported hospital discharge programme in preventing hospital re-admissions, improving functional status and handicap of older patients with chronic heart failure.
Design. Randomized controlled trial; 105 hospitalized patients aged 60 years or over with chronic heart failure and history of hospital admission(s) in previous year were randomly assigned into intervention group (n = 49) and control group (n = 56) for six months. Intervention group subjects received community nurse visits before discharge, within seven days of discharge, weekly for four weeks, then monthly. Community nurse liaised closely with a designated specialist in hospital and were accessible to subjects during normal working hours. Control and intervention group subjects were followed up in the same specialist medical clinics. Primary outcome was the rate of unplanned re-admission at six months. Secondary outcomes were number of unplanned re-admissions, six-minute walking distance, London Handicap Scale and public health care and personal care costs.
Results. At sixth months, the re-admission rates were not significantly different (46 vs. 57% in control subjects, p = 0·233, Chi-square test). But the median number of re-admissions tended to lower in the intervention group (0 vs. 1 in control group, p = 0·057, Mann Whitney test). Intervention group subjects had less handicap in independence (median change 0 vs. 0·5 in control subjects, p = 0·002, Mann Whitney test), but there was no difference in six-minute walking distance. There was no significant group difference in median total public health care and personal care costs.
Conclusion. Community nurse-supported post-discharge programme was effective in preserving independence and was probably effective in reducing the number of unplanned re-admissions. The cost benefits to public health care were not significant.
Relevance to clinical practice. Older chronic heart failure patients are likely to benefit from post-discharge community nurse intervention programmes. More comprehensive health economic evaluation needs to be undertaken.