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A red bag: a simple change packing a difference

The red bag scheme or ‘hospital transfer pathway’ is a small change having a big impact on care home residents in the West Midlands region.

When a resident becomes unwell and is assessed as needing hospital care, care home staff pack a dedicated red bag that includes the resident’s standardised paperwork and their medication, as well as day-of-discharge clothes and other personal items.

It’s a simple initiative but one which is providing better communication between care homes and hospitals at all points of the resident’s journey into hospital and back home again.
Across the West Midlands, there are nine areas offering the scheme, including Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Herefordshire, Sandwell, Solihull, Warwickshire, Wolverhampton and Worcestershire.

Kiran Patel, Medical Director for NHS England Midlands and East, West Midlands Team said: “We know that one of the factors that can result in older patients staying in Hospital, longer than needed, is Ambulance and Hospital staff not having access to all the right information, including patient medication.  We are supporting the Red bag scheme across the West Midlands as a way to help Hospitals improve patient flow.”

In Wolverhampton, the red bag scheme has been in operation since December 2017 and is expected to be rolled out to 57 care homes across the city by the end of June. The scheme ensures that ambulance and hospital staff can quickly understand a resident’s condition and personal needs – as well as facilitate a smooth transfer back to their ‘home’ environment.

Sue Eagle, Commissioning Officer for the City of Wolverhampton Council and Co-ordinator for the Red Bag project said: “The Red bag project has enabled everyone to have a visual tool to be able to put documentation, that’s comprehensive, into a Red Bag and ensure the safe transfer of patients and residents to hospital.

“The project has enabled us to be person-centred and helped us realise a number of benefits such as reducing the length of stay if someone is admitted.

“Early indicators have shown that 64% of Wolverhampton’s care homes, who were initially part of the scheme, from December 2017 to January 2018, saw the length of Hospital stay reduced on average by up to three days.”

The scheme has proved so successful in regions such as Wolverhampton that it’s been rolled out across the country with the help of a new quick guide published today.
The guide aims to provide care homes, trusts, CCGs and ambulance services with practical tips on how to implement the scheme.

Councillor Sandra Samuels OBE, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: “The red bag scheme is a great example of partnership working across health and social care which will ensure patient safety and improve their experience if they have to go to hospital.

“It is helping significantly reduce the time people have to spend in hospital, and also freeing up the time of healthcare professionals from care homes, West Midlands Ambulance Service and Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust by ensuring they have all the information they need about their patients to hand and are able to be able to do their job more efficiently.

“Even simple things like ensuring patients have their own toiletries with them will save hospital staff time and money sourcing these items.”

A simple change, the scheme has shown to reduce hospital delays, help stop patients losing personal items and improve communication between care home and hospital staff.
Care home staff are trained how to pack the bag correctly, ensure the easy check list is completed, and know who needs to take responsibility for the bag when an emergency admission arises. The same happens at hospital when the patient returns home.