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Investing in care home staff to deliver the very best resident experience – Caroline Pollington

New models of care, including the work of the vanguards, will be key to the delivery of sustainability and transformation plans, which are being developed across the country. Sutton Homes of Care (@SuttonHoC) are one of the vanguards participating at this week’s Patient First Conference and Lead Nurse, Caroline Pollington, explains how one small change is already making a big difference and improving the lives of care home residents.

The Hospital Transfer Pathway (HTP) – more affectionately known as the red bag initiative – has been one of the major successes of our enhanced health in care homes vanguard to date, and I’ve been thrilled to be a part of its development.

The red bag was born from one of the vanguard’s care home manager forums; a bi-monthly opportunity for care home managers to get together in a safe, informal space, share experiences and discuss issues being experienced in the area. It’s the visual identity of the HTP; a pathway of care that enables care home managers to share important information about residents with hospitals upon admission and discharge. It’s a true example of collaborative working, with involvement from care home staff, the London Ambulance Service, local hospitals and community services.

The main driver of the red bag initiative was to improve care home residents’ journey through the healthcare system should they need to be admitted to hospital. The red bag contains all of the belongings that a resident may need while in hospital, such as personal details, a change of clothes, medicines, and so on. The bag is very visible and identifies that the person is from a care home, including standard documentation that provides key information about a resident’s health and social needs.

This helps hospital teams to make fast and effective clinical decisions regarding treatment and enhances the safety of residents before, during and after admission. The red bag initiative is still being fully evaluated, but outcomes so far have been really positive. Early indications suggest that residents’ length of stay in hospital has been reduced by about four days and as a result reducing pressures across the health and social care system.  It’s anticipated that the red bag will deliver savings of around £183,000 through reduced length of hospital stay and £290,000 from reduced loss of residents’ belongings during their hospital episode.

Where residents and families have been able to share their experience of using the red bag, they say it makes them feel safe knowing all the important information is inside.

The red bag pathway is just one example of how care homes are becoming more integrated into the wider health and social care system. The recently published care model framework for enhanced health in care homes laid out a clear vision for providing joined up primary, community and secondary, social care to residents of care and nursing homes, via a range of in reach services. How amazing would it be if an integrated pathway, such as the red bag scheme became standard practice across the UK – fully integrating care homes and their residents into the local health and social care system?


Caroline PollingtonCaroline Pollington – Lead Nurse Sutton Homes of Care

Caroline graduated from Southampton University as a nurse in 2001, following undergraduate study in anatomy and biology. Her career to date has been within acute neurosciences, both neurology and neurosurgery, having performed a variety of roles, including ward-based junior, senior nurse, clinical nurse specialist and departmental staff educational lead.

Caroline’s joint passions for neurosciences and education led to post-graduate qualifications in these areas, and she is a NMC-registered nurse teacher.  She recently completed a Darzi fellowship, which has enhanced her leadership capabilities.

Caroline believes in individual empowerment to achieve greatness and that, by giving health professionals the right skills, knowledge and support, they can have a huge impact on both individuals and systems.

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