A new service based in West Cumberland Hospital (WCH) Accident & Emergency (A&E) department is working to help people avoid a hospital stay and reduce pressure on health and care services.
Home First sees physiotherapists and occupational therapists from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) based in A&E, ran by North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust (NCUH), to assess older patients when they arrive to see if they can remain at home, with some extra support. Many hospital stays can be safely avoided if the right support is in place at home.
“On average we see around 15 patients a week and manage to help seven of these avoid a hospital stay which is fantastic," said Gwyn Lishman, clinical lead occupational therapist.
"That’s seven people who are able to return to their own homes, reducing stress for them and their families and ensuring hospital beds are available for those who really need them.
"Hospitals are the right place to be when someone is seriously ill or in need of a specific treatment but there are also risks associated with a hospital stay. Patients lying in a hospital bed are at an increased risk of losing their independence and muscle strength or catching an infection."
Fiona Wright, clinical lead physiotherapist, added: “We know that hospital is often not the best place to be and people recover quicker at home. We have really good relationships with wider health and care teams which help us to quickly arrange the right support to keep patients out of hospital.
“For example, someone who has had a fall might need extra help such as equipment to help them stay steady or short term home care, alongside rehabilitation to increase their safety and independence.”
The Home First team works closely with Adult Social Care, community health teams and voluntary organisations, such as West Cumbria Carers and Age UK, to put support in place to help people manage safely at home.
West Cumbria Carers, a charity that supports unpaid carers in Allerdale and Copeland, is working closely with the team to ensure carers get the advice and support they need. Clare Edwards, project and funding development manager at West Cumbria Carers, noted: “Unpaid carers and the vital role they play can often be overlooked at a time of crisis when they, or the person they care for, go into hospital. Working closely with Home First enables us to meet these carers and offer them the support they need. We can offer them emotional support, help to access appropriate benefits, information about all sorts of local services and help to understand the often complex health and social care processes they need to deal with.”
Patients who are admitted to hospital through A&E are also likely to get home quicker with the Home First team’s involvement. Planning for home can start as soon as they are admitted so the right support is in place when they are ready to leave, reducing any unnecessary delays and the time they have to stay in hospital.
The work of the Home First Team is said to be helping to reduce pressure on the A&E department. Dr Peter Weaving, emergency department doctor at WCH, explained: “We see a lot of people with complex health and care needs and the thing that brought them to A&E is often not the main problem. The team use their extensive connections to put support in place so patients can get home quickly and seamlessly, allowing us to focus on the medical issue that brought the patient into hospital.”
Stephen Eames, chief executive of CPFT and NCUH, added: “This is a fantastic new service for people in West Cumbria and it is already showing very promising results. Working closer together with our partners to avoid hospital stays and treating people closer to home is exactly what we’re trying to do through the development of Integrated Care Communities and it’s encouraging to see that our patients are already benefiting.”