Care improvements aim to reduce stress of hospital visits

Nigel Dawson, managing director of Helen McArdle Care, Sean McArdle, director of service and wellbeing of Helen McArdle Care, and Coun Scott Dickinson, chairman of the Northumberland Health & Wellbeing Board.
Nigel Dawson, managing director of Helen McArdle Care, Sean McArdle, director of service and wellbeing of Helen McArdle Care, and Coun Scott Dickinson, chairman of the Northumberland Health & Wellbeing Board.

A trip to hospital can be distressing for elderly and infirm people in care homes, but a new scheme in Northumberland is bringing care closer to home.

A partnership between local government and care and health providers is improving support for residents through a range of initiatives, which include the establishment of better links with GPs and pharmacists.

The scheme, launched as part of the Better Care Fund (BCF) initiatives, improves healthcare in homes through training, education and improved medication checks and telephone access to GPs. The BCF was announced by the Government in 2013 to improve the provision of integrated health and social care.

At least £3.8billion of existing NHS and local-authority funding must be included in a pooled budget in each local area for BCF provision. The Fund aims to improve support to people with long-term needs and to protect social-care services from the impact of local-authority austerity savings by developing integrated services which reduce costs, including acute hospital costs.

Coun Scott Dickinson, chairman of the Northumberland Health & Wellbeing Board, has been visiting care homes in the county to meet staff and patients and see how services are progressing.

On a visit to the Acomb Court care home, in Hexham, run by Helen McArdle Care, he said: "If care-home residents become poorly, it is often better that they are treated within the familiar surroundings of their care home. It is more comforting for them and avoids unnecessary transfers to hospital. Quality and clinically appropriate delivery of care in the care home is the goal and I’m pleased to see the progress being made to make healthcare as comfortable as possible for residents."

Some of the improvements being made include: A lead pharmacist has been appointed to carry out medication reviews and improve the quality of prescribed medicines to residents; Better access to GP support with the provision of a dedicated telephone number for care home staff; The role of community matrons is being developed with a focus on improving emergency healthcare plans; Care home staff are being supported with training, education and awareness raising programmes.

Coun Dickinson added: "We are continuing to visit community hospitals and care homes throughout next year to see how the schemes are working and provide feedback to inform further improvements."

The BCF programme relies on the operational input of all health and care agencies in the county and a steering group meets monthly.