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New expert teams aim to keep older people well at home

12:00am | & Health

New plans announced by the NHS will see expert rapid response teams on hand to help older people remain well at home and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.

Local health service and council teams will begin the roll-out of ‘Urgent Community Response’ teams from April, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to support England’s ageing population and those with complex needs.

The teams will give those who need it fast access to a range of qualified professionals who can address both their health and social care needs. These will include physiotherapy and occupational therapy, medication prescribing and reviews, and help with staying well-fed and hydrated.

Backed by £14 million of investment, seven pilot project “accelerator sites” will be the first to deliver the new standards for care. They will also work together to standardise how urgent community services can be measured and delivered consistently across the country, 365 days-a-year.

Older people and adults with complex health needs who have a very urgent care need – including a risk of being hospitalised ­– will be able to access a response from a team of skilled professionals within two hours. It is envisaged that in most cases the expert team will be able to provide the care they need to remain independent and avoid admission to hospital.

A two-day standard will also apply for teams to put in place tailored packages of intermediate care for people in their own homes following a stay in hospital. These “re-ablement services” will aim to restore and rebuild confidence and independence.

The urgent response standards are part of a range of commitments – including enhanced NHS support to care homes – which local health and care leaders will roll out over the next few years. The overall aim is to help keep older people well at home and reduce pressure on hospital services.

NHS chief executive Sir Simon Stevens (pictured) said: “The NHS working hand in glove in the community with council-funded social care services can be the difference between an older person or someone with long-term health needs spending a week or a month on a ward – or getting the right help early so they don’t need to go to hospital in the first place.

“That’s why, as part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS, we are putting community services front and centre, and backing them with a growing share of the NHS budget. Putting in place these new standards will give people and their families peace of mind about what they can expect from their local services when they need help most.”

NHS teams in seven parts of the country will begin working with their local authority counterparts on developing the services and recruiting staff from April, with the ambition that at least three areas will be fully up and running by next winter. Further areas across England will receive extra funding to begin working to the new standards from 2021, with every part of the country covered by April 2023.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, said: “Long, avoidable hospital stays can be particularly distressing for older people and can strip them of their independence – something we absolutely must prevent.

“So we are rolling out this innovative new approach which will help treat our ageing population in the comfort of their own homes, helping them live independent lives for longer. This is a key part of the NHS Long Term Plan, backed by record investment in the NHS, and we are committed to making sure this translates to better, safer care in the community.”

Shifting more care out of hospital and into the community is the first of five major improvements in how the changing health needs of the country will be met over the coming decade to be set out in the NHS Long Term Plan.

The seven ‘accelerator’ sites selected to develop the two-hour/two-day NHS standards are:

  • Warrington Together (Cheshire and Merseyside STP);
  • West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership (Kirklees);
  • Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland system;
  • Cornwall system;
  • Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire system;
  • South East London system; and
  • Norfolk and Waveney system.

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