Acute frailty

The NHS Long Term Plan states that all hospitals with a 24 hour A&E will provide an Acute Frailty service for at least 70 hours a week, with the aim to complete a clinical frailty assessment within 30 minutes of a patients arrival in the Emergency Department or SDEC unit.

Identifying and assessing frail patients within a few hours of their arrival to hospital enables them to be treated by multidisciplinary teams in a timely manner. This means they can be discharged to their usual residence sooner, especially if a hospital admission would offer no additional benefit.

Early identification and assessment of frail patients allow services to adapt their vulnerable adults’ care. This identification ensures that patient needs are met by using the SDEC model, to identify those that require hospital admission and/or those whose conditions will be better managed in the community (i.e. via Primary Care and community support).

SDEC is particularly beneficial for patients with frailty as it allows ongoing community-based individual care that is flexible and less distressing for patients. This tailored approach ensures patients avoid unnecessary delays before their needs are identified.

The SDEC Acute Frailty programme has worked with several stakeholders to establish key principles and characteristics of Acute Frailty services. These principles continue to help providers and healthcare professionals ensure patients receive integrated care across hospital departments, services, and the community.

Next steps

The SDEC Acute Frailty programme will continue to provide national leadership and support local delivery by focusing on key areas below:

  • Enhanced Clinical Leadership – Clinical champions have been appointed to drive the programme forward and help engage healthcare professionals to support ongoing improvement
  • Communications and Engagement – We continue to engage with key stakeholders and further develop our communication plan to build better understanding within the system
  • Dissemination and Sharing of good practices – The programme recently held a series of Acute Frailty webinars which explored the themes below:
    • Early identification of frailty and the patient centred approach
    • Workforce mapping and upskilling the right individuals
    • Understanding local systems to drive improvement in frailty

Recordings of these webinars can be found on the FutureNHS Collaboration Platform (SDEC Community Space).

The SDEC Community online workspace is a collaborative platform designed for teams and providers to share best practice, access information and guidance, and raise questions to the national SDEC team. You can register to join the FutureNHS Collaboration Platform workspace here.

For Acute Frailty related queries please email