Rapid response teams made up of nurses, care staff and occupational therapists will be on hand within two hours to help older people remain well at home, under new plans outlined by NHS England.
Backed by £14 million in funding, the Urgent Rapid Response teams will be piloted in seven areas of the UK from April this year, with plans to roll out the new model across the country by 2023.
A two-day standard will also apply for teams to put in place tailored packages of intermediate care, or reablement services, for individuals in their own homes, with the aim of restoring independence and confidence after a hospital stay.
The proposal has already been trialled in several places and these trials have reported reduced demand on A&E services.
The news follows a report by Alzheimer’s Society which found that 40,000 people living with dementia were stuck in hospital for over a month in 2017/18.
Age UK also found that during the 917 days between the June and December elections, delayed discharges caused by a lack of social care have cost the NHS a total of £587 million, or £27,000 each and every hour.
The seven ‘accelerator’ sites that have been selected to test the rapid response teams are Warrington; West Yorkshire; Leicestershire; Cornwall; Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire; South East London; and Norfolk and Waveney.
Trade union Unison welcomed the news of the plans, but warned that they signalled the need for urgent investment in social care.
“If the social care system wasn’t underfunded to the point of collapse, older people could be helped before they hit crisis point,” said Unison assistant general secretary Christina McAnea.
“But with resources scarce, short visits have become the norm. Care workers are so rushed off their feet, they barely have time to administer basic care, let alone assess whether someone needs a greater degree of help.
“There can be no quick fix for social care. The failure of politicians to get to grips with one of the most pressing issues the country faces is nothing short of a disgrace.”
The reablement services will aim to help people remain independent by providing support and rehabilitation to people at risk of admission to, or who have been in, hospital; helping make their transfer out of hospital as smooth as possible; ensuring people remain at home for as long as possible; and offering short-term support to people who find daily activities difficult.
NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, 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.”
In January 2018, BBC One spotlighted a rapid response team in Camden that had saved the NHS nearly £2.5 million in 2017, avoiding hundreds of hospital visits by treating the elderly and vulnerable patients in their own homes.