23 November 2010

A new initiative which aims to get patients home from hospital as quickly as possible and with the right support has scooped two prestigious health and social care awards.

Called Think Home First, the project has won both the Success in Partnership Working award and the Putting Patients and the Public First at the national Health and Social Care Awards 2010 which aim to highlight and celebrate innovation and excellence in the field.

Think Home First has seen Northamptonshire County Council, NHS Northamptonshire, Kettering General Hospital and Northampton General Hospital and other partners work closely together to ensure that patients get the appropriate support to enable them to be discharged from hospital.

The project means that an integrated team made-up of representatives from the NHS, hospitals and the county council are all involved in the discharge process, therefore helping to ensure those patients who need extra support in order to leave hospital, such as a care worker to support them at home for example, do not have to stay in hospital longer than necessary.

Previously, research showed that there was a delay in discharging patients as assessments that need to be carried out by a range of professionals did not always take place at the same time. The new system, which was launched at both Northampton General Hospital and Kettering General Hospital means that all of the professionals are involved at the same time, ensuring an integrated approach and a smooth process for the patients being discharged.

Councillor Robin Brown, county council cabinet member for health and adult social services said: “Our main aim is to ensure that when patients are discharged from hospital it is done quickly, safely and with the care and support they need in order to return home successfully rather than having to remain in hospital for longer than they need to.

“I am very pleased this project has won the national recognition it deserves and I send my congratulations to everyone involved in Think Home First, which is a great demonstration of the excellent results that can be achieved for our customers with true partnership working.”

The Think Home First hospital discharge team was officially launched at both hospitals in February this year, and was led by a multi-disciplinary Project Board chaired by Kettering General Hospital Chief Operating Officer Jayne Tunstall. Jayne said: “This is an excellent example of all of the different disciplines involved in health and social care working closely together for the benefit of patients.

“We now have a much more co-ordinated effort to support those patients who need some extra help in order to go home from hospital.

“It means that ward staff, therapists, the voluntary sector, and the team from the primary care trust and social care all work very closely together to get the best outcomes for patients.

“The Think Home First Hospital Discharge Team have become the first port of call for staff who know that their patient is going to need some extra help and by using this team we are making sure that help is put in place quickly and efficiently enabling patients to go home as soon as they are clinically stable enough to do so.”

Richard Alsop, Director of Strategy & Systems Management at NHS Northamptonshire, said: “This is a much deserved result for everyone involved in the Think Home First initiative. Their work is not only helping patients and their families by ensuring a smooth and effective return home for those leaving hospital but is also contributing significantly to making the best use of healthcare resources and so making NHS budget in Northamptonshire go further. This is something that has rarely been more important as the NHS continues to face challenging financial times."

The project has saved 582 acute bed days and 254 community hospital bed days to date – based on an estimated £200 per day, this has saved £167,200 in the first six months as well as reducing the amount of time it takes to get patients out of hospital and back home where they can recover fully with the right support and in familiar surroundings.

It has also meant the number of available beds in community hospitals and specialist care centres has increased from an average of 10 to 25.

As well as the integrated hospital discharge teams, the project also includes rapid response teams commissioned from the voluntary sector including LINK, Serve and Age Concern, to provide immediate access to personal care or low level support, such as a handyman, transport and benefits advice.

Bernard Crump, Chief Executive of the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement and Co-Chair of the national judging panel, said: “These awards recognise frontline NHS and social care staff who are leading the way in improving the quality of care for patients and increasing productivity. This project is a well-planned, multi-agency approach to reducing hospital stays by providing effective support at home. It combines cost reduction with improvements in quality which make sense to patients, carers and clinicians.”

The awards are run in partnership between the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement and the Department of Health. The awards were announced on 18th November, for more information see: http://www.institute.nhs.uk/hsca/national/_content/2010_national_winners_and_finalists.aspx