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AUG 05/2014

Out-of-hospital care for the elderly: a look at the new NHS strategy

More opportunities for home care workers could be created within the NHS thanks to new plans to revamp out-of-hospital care for older people.

Unveiled by the government earlier this month by the Department of Health and Department for Communities and Local Government, the new strategy recognises the need for elderly people to receive a better standard of care in community settings, while also ensuring that the different services that exist within the NHS coordinate their efforts better when it comes to dealing with vulnerable people.

Coming into effect from April 2015, the changes will have a number of key implications for staff and patients alike.

What are the goals of the new strategy?
The new reforms, which followed a review of the first set of local plans for the Better Care Fund, will make up to £3.8 billion available for NHS organisations that are seeking to make changes and service improvements in line with a number of key principles.

These include offering the frail and elderly greater independence by providing the care they need at or closer to home, while also doing more to ensure patients are able to access treatment and advice seven days a week.

Meanwhile, continued efforts will be made to ensure individuals always have a named professional who will be responsible for joining up services and acting as a single point of contact no matter which division is looking after them. Other key objectives include better data sharing to prevent patients from having to repeat information to multiple people and joint assessments to make sure all of a person's needs can be met in one go.

The practical implications
Already, NHS England and the Local Government Association have found that more than 80 per cent of local area strategies are on course to transform out of hospital services along these lines, with 14 regions capable of fast-tracking the completion of these plans because they are already showing strong promise.

When the programme formally gets underway in April 2015, health and wellbeing boards will be able to set their own performance pots as they aim to meet a guideline reduction in unplanned hospital admissions of at least 3.5 per cent - the equivalent of at least 185,500 fewer admissions a year.

This will have positive implications for healthcare workers spanning a number of disciplines. The changes recognise the potentially significant role home care workers can play in improving care quality for vulnerable older people, many of whom prefer to be treated at home and away from a hospital setting.

By offering individualised care that is responsive to their specific needs, home care staff can help frail patients to avoid healthcare emergencies, thus taking pressure off NHS critical care facilities at the same time.

Meanwhile, the push for more joined-up care provision across the NHS will help all doctors and nurses to offer treatment in a more informed way and get involved in service planning at a higher level.

Indeed, more than 100 clinical commissioning group areas have expressed interest in co-commissioning primary care services, meaning GPs have would be able to have a greater say in shaping hospital and primary care services to reduce unnecessary admissions.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "Successive governments have talked about bringing the NHS and social care together for decades - this is the first, transformative step to making that a reality."

Interested in homecare work or know somebody who is? Click here to find out more. Inter

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