New quick guide will free up vital hospital services

A new quick guide, ‘Better Use of Care at Home’, has been developed to help people home from hospital. It contains practical tips, case studies and ideas to improve processes, relationships and the use of care at home. Dominic Carter, a policy officer with the United Kingdom Homecare Association, explains why the guide is needed:

Making better use of services providing care at home is an increasingly important challenge for the health and social care sectors as the mercury plummets and we approach the final months of 2015.

When arranged appropriately, care at home enables people to live independently and in a familiar environment for longer, providing continuity through frequent contact. Yet data from NHS England on Delayed Transfers of Care shows that people who were ready to be discharged remained in hospital for more than 250,000 extra days due to a lack of homecare services in the twelve months to September 2015. That represents a 61% increase on the previous year, and waiting for a package of homecare is now the most common social care related reason for delayed transfers of care.

A 2013 poll conducted by Saga and Populus found that nine out of 10 people aged 50 years or over would prefer to receive care at home than elsewhere.

For too many people, being able to go back home does not occur quickly enough. There are a host of possible reasons for this: gaps in information sharing between hospitals and care providers; a lack of understanding of the timescales and requirements related to generating care at home capacity; inadequate knowledge of the variety of care at home services; and failing to involve care at home in a multi-disciplinary approach.

‘Quick Guide: Better Use of Care at Home’ considers the individual’s journey, from admission through to their hospital stay, and then helping them to remain at home.

It was produced by a group of key organisations involved across the care at home sector, many of whom have had frustrating experiences of the reasons listed above and were keen to offer some possible approaches that could lead to improvements.

For them, it was clear that the quick guide should promote the importance of working in partnership across health and social care. There must be a mutual recognition of the role each has to play, and that care at home might include hourly homecare, but could also involve live-in care, interim housing solutions or adaptations to make the home environment suitable.

Essential to this partnership should be a constant, up-to-date flow of key information around the individual and their support needs, available to those involved in the package of care.

We are confident that the quick guide, as part of a suite of quick guides around urgent care, offers food for thought to local authorities and CCGs struggling with delayed transfers of care, complete with examples identifying where discharge models are working best.

Collaboration to create this work between the NHS and independent care sector has been very encouraging, and provides a strong platform for ongoing efforts to help more people out of hospital, and back to the environment of their choice, home.

Dominic Carter

Dominic Carter is a Policy Officer with the United Kingdom Homecare Association.

He joined the sector three years ago through the Skills for Care Graduate Management Training Scheme and previously studied at Leeds University.