Easing the pressure on healthcare

8:49am Wednesday 3rd April 2013

By Sally Clifford

With the NHS straining to deliver healthcare to Britain’s increasing population, alternative projects are helping to relieve the pressure.

Here in Bradford, groups of GPs, community nurses, social services and voluntary groups are co-ordinating locally-based care through initiatives such as the Hale Project (Health Action Local Engagement) in Shipley.

Through outreach work, the project is helping to manage and prevent diabetes and cardiovascular conditions in the Manningham and Frizinghall areas.

Great Places To Grow Old, a programme led by Bradford Council, aims to combine a range of housing options with social care, health and community support to enable older people to stay independent and well, avoiding the need for residential or nursing home admissions. The programme also improves care and support for people with dementia.

In another community initiative, Bradford Teaching Hospitals are running a Virtual Ward pilot scheme supporting elderly patients and those with some long-term conditions by turning their home into a ‘virtual ward’ where they are visited and treated by hospital staff – nurses, physiotherapy and occupational therapy and consultants – to prevent them being admitted to hospital, re-admitted and to support their discharge following a hospital stay.

Carol was suffering from debilitating depression when she was referred by her doctor to the Integrated Care for Adults programme, run by local providers of health and social care, including Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Voluntary Services, Bradford Council, Bradford District Care Trust and the new clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

The programme’s aim is to foster co-working and communication between the different organisations supporting Bradford people to provide a joined-up, holistic approach to care within communities and prevent the need for stays in hospital.

Carol, 52, is conscious that she could have been taking up a hospital bed and been on more medication had it not been for the programme, which she says has brought life-changing benefits.

“I was basically going downhill and something needed to be done about it,” she says.

She had become socially isolated and also suffers from a number of long-term physical conditions and lower back and ankle problems.

Through Health On The Streets (HOTS) – a multi-disciplinary team providing a range of services and support, including signposting to local groups and activities – Carol embarked on counselling sessions tailored to meet her needs and learned about groups and activities offering support including Young at Heart, a social support network for people over 50, at the Rockwell Centre in Thorpe Edge.

Carol is also involved in the Live@Home ‘Good Neighbours’ project – a vulnerable people’s support service. She receives regular contact calls from winter support co-ordinator, Jacqueline Howcutt.

“It’s having a network of people who care and they do – especially Jackie. I get a telephone call from her most mornings, checking if I’m all right and asking if I need anything,” says Carol.

Carol now volunteers at the Rockwell Centre, helping to run regular coffee mornings.

“I could have ended up in hospital, taking a bed. I could have gone downhill and ended up on more medication than I’m currently on. And I’m sure if you add it all up, the cost of the care I’ve had will be less than a bed in hospital or other health facilities,” she says.

“It has helped me a lot. It has helped me realise there are people who care and are concerned. It’s what should be happening to vulnerable people who are socially isolated and need support and help.”

Walter O’Neill, NHS programme manager, says: “Working in an integrated, or joined-up way helps organisations to support people as whole individuals, rather than focusing on only one part of the person at a time, such as their heart, their feet or their home care needs.

“This is the key to ending the cycle of dependency and hospital admission that some people find themselves in. Carol’s case is a perfect example of how the input of different organisations has helped her to overcome her health problems in the community, without the need for hospital care.

“Not only does this approach enable people to continue living at home, with all the things that are important to them within easy reach, it also keeps hospital beds free for genuine emergencies.

“Integrated care has a strong focus on helping people to have clear plans to help themselves, as for every hour a person might spend with a health or social care professional, they will spend many more with their own families or by themselves. This approach makes good use of the variety of voluntary organisations that are present in every community, and helps to build friendships and relationships that reduce dependency on public services.”

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