Suffolk: Red Cross to care for discharged hospital patients in their homes

Plans for post discharge patient care revealed

Plans for post discharge patient care revealed - Credit: PA

Hospital patients in Ipswich and east Suffolk could soon be cared for in their homes by the Red Cross after being discharged.

Plans will be discussed later this month to send Red Cross staff to the homes of patients in the three days following a hospital stay.

The move is designed to provide post discharge support to patients for 72 hours and is one of several direct services to be contracted to the third sector in an effort to curb unnecessarily long hospital stays.

The county’s patient watchdog last night said it “cautiously welcomed” the move but stressed the importance of establishing clear criteria for the type of care being administered in order to prevent the risk of people being sent home too early.

The NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) currently holds a range of third sector contracts valued at between £7,500 and £1.2m.

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The total value of contracts – including a £2.7m deal with a community interest company for a range of services – is £5,793,000.

The CCG last night said the proposed new service formed part of the its commitment to “quality healthcare services that offer improved patient outcomes”.

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Along with Red Cross staff providing home support for recently discharged hospital patients, Suffolk Family Carers and Age UK are working with Ipswich Hospital, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Community Healthcare to get older patients who are medically fit home earlier by providing community support.

The Post Acute Care Enablement strategy is allied to ongoing schemes aimed at preventing unnecessary admissions to the acute wards and allowing for earlier discharge from hospital.

Meanwhile, the CCG’s governing board will also hear about the service provided by Town Pastors – commissioned to support people at risk of alcohol and substance misuse, and whose safety may be at risk.

The Town Pastors, work in collaboration with the police and Ipswich Borough Council every Friday and Saturday night in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Stowmarket and Woodbridge.

Annie Topping, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk said that commissioning the Red Cross to provide post hospital discharge care had already been trialled successfully elsewhere but urged that the service be strictly and regularly monitored to ensure it was serving the interests of patients.

She said: “We have seen this initiative tried out in other parts of the country and have seen the importance of understanding what kind of patients will be supported and what kind of support they will be given.

“The CCG has to think creatively about allowing patients to go home early, but the details are important. We do hear of patients being sent home too early.”

Healthwatch Suffolk is preparing to release findings from an inquiry launched earlier this year with Healthwatch England into patients being prematurely discharged and put at risk of emergency readmission to hospital – more costly to local authorities than a patient remaining in hospital unnecessarily.

Ms Topping said: “There has to be an improvement for those patients sent home without the proper care and support.

“We know the CCG is looking at ways of supporting people in their own homes and what can be done to facilitate early discharge, so we cautiously welcome a scheme that benefits some patients, although stress the importance of there being clear criteria and seeing how it has been working after two or three months.

“Our focus is very much on patient outcomes. Whatever the contract, it needs to be looked at not in isolation but within the totality of services available to patients.”

A spokesman for the NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: “This proposed new service forms part of the CCG’s commitment to quality healthcare services that offer improved patient outcomes.”

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