More opportunities for home care staff could be provided by reforming current community service models to give them a greater role within NHS care.
This is the conclusion of a new report from the King's Fund, which is based on the findings of a working group of community trusts. It has set out a seven-step plan for change to address past policy failings that have stopped home care from achieving its full potential.
It has been argued that at present, the scale of community services is poorly understood, with the debate on health services often dominated by GPs and hospitals, or primary and secondary care.
As such, the report called for a reduction of the unnecessary complexity of community services, allowing home care workers to forge much closer relationships with groups of general practices and build multidisciplinary teams for people with complex needs, encompassing social care, mental health and other services.
These teams would be supported with specialist medical input - particularly for older people and those with chronic conditions - with the aim of creating services that offer a genuine and viable alternative to hospital stays.
This would necessitate building an information infrastructure, workforce and operational/commissioning model to support this, as well as reaching out to the wider community to improve prevention and provide better support for isolated people.
By implementing these steps, the NHS would be able to achieve its goals of reducing hospital admission rates, releasing resources for patients to receive home care and ease the growing demand for hospital beds.
The report has been welcomed by the NHS Confederation, which has underlined the importance of the expertise of community services to be recognised and utilised more widely.
Michael Scott, chair of the NHS Confederation's Community Health Services Forum, said: "This isn't about community-based services or hospital-based care. It's not a choice between one or the other. It's about all parts of the health and care service playing their best role, joining up with each other, around patients. The health service is an ensemble performance, not a solo."
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