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Ashford health project wins top national award

User AvatarPosted by Samuel Jackson at 27/09/2013 11:38:36
An innovative project in Ashford scooped a national award for NHS Ashford Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at last night’s prestigious Health Service Journal Efficiency Awards.

The CCG beat competition from around the country to win the prize for Efficiency in Community Service Redesign for its work to help frail older people receive better care and avoid unnecessary trips to hospital.

The project offers support to care homes from a full-time consultant (known as a geriatrician) and a community matron working extended hours, who are the first point of contact for care homes when a resident’s health deteriorates. They offer expert care to residents who become seriously unwell, without them needing to be taken to hospital.

As a result, the number of local care home residents requiring hospital admission has dropped by 20 per cent (around 100 people) over the last year.

The success of the project, which is part of the Health Foundation’s Safer Clinical Systems programme, has been achieved by the collaborative approach by NHS Ashford CCG, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (EKHUFT), Kent Community Health NHS Trust (KCHT) and Kent County Council’s Social Services.

Commenting on the ‘Community Geriatrician Project’, the Health Service Journal (HSJ) judges said: “This is a great example of true cross-organisational, cross sector working to provide better care for service users and prevent inefficient use of hospital services by reducing admissions. The approach has built up from a very thorough analysis of the problem to design the appropriate solution. The passion and commitment of the team clearly came across.”

Previously, when a care home resident fell ill, they would often be taken to A&E by care home staff to be assessed and treated. Now, care homes can call the matron or geriatrician for advice and assistance. This means that residents can be seen, assessed and treated without being moved for the majority of illnesses, and are only hospitalised when absolutely necessary.

Other preventative measures have also been put in place, including the development of individual care plans – meaning anyone involved in a person’s care knows what to do if a person’s health begins to deteriorate.

Dr Caroline Ruaux, Clinical Lead for NHS Ashford’s Community Geriatrician Project, said: “We believe it’s important that we are able to provide the right care, in the right place, to all people across Ashford. The geriatrician project is all about promoting independence and providing access to a specialist opinion or treatment without the upheaval of care home residents having to go into hospital, which can be a stressful and distressing experience, particularly for people who may be confused or have dementia.

“So far, the data shows a dramatic decrease in the number of hospital admissions, which is very positive news and a credit to the care home staff, clinicians and everyone involved in the project.”

In addition to providing an improved service for care home residents, the new way of working has resulted in an estimated £250,000 cost saving.  

Nick Golding, News Editor of HSJ, said: “The NHS’s funding is broadly flat but the demands on it are increasing rapidly – unless the health service makes changes it will be overwhelmed by the challenges it faces. Projects such as NHS Ashford CCG’s help safeguard the future of the NHS, ensuring its resources are used to their full potential, helping to make savings in a way which enhances, rather than damages, patient care.”

NHS Ashford CCG has also set up a Care Home Forum which provides a regular opportunity for care home staff to meet with representatives from social services, the local hospitals, KCHT and South East Coast Ambulance Service (SECAmb).

Kim Lee, Lead Nurse for Long Term Conditions worked alongside the Community Matrons to develop the project. She said: “Part of the Community Matron role is to create tailored healthcare plans for every person in a local care home, which we then share with other relevant organisations. The project helps to join up all different aspects of healthcare and it is very rewarding to see the positive impact this is having for patients.”

Kevin Parker, Manager at Brambles Care Home in Wye near Ashford and Chair of the Kent Care Homes Association, said: “It’s reassuring to know there is help and advice just a call away if needed. The project has only been running for a short time, but it has already made such a difference to so many of our residents’ lives.

“The Care Home Forum has also been really helpful in bridging the gap between all the different organisations involved in providing healthcare for older people”