‘Red Bags’ improve transfer communication
By PAUL WILLIAMS
A new scheme designed to improve communication and working practices between the NHS and care homes has been implemented in the London borough of Sutton.
A care home manager’s forum identified room for improvement in the care home to hospital transfer pathway. One of the stories that came to light concerned hospital staff who had spent a considerable amount of time trying to help a care home resident get out of bed and walk because they hadn’t been told he was a wheelchair user.
Now, when a care home resident needs to go into hospital, a red bag containing their personal details, information on health conditions, medication and a change of clothes is packed for them. The bag also has room for other belongings such as toiletries, glasses, hearing aids and dentures. Mary Hopper, a senior NHS manager in Sutton, said the new approach had led to older people spending less time in hospital – eight days on average, which is four fewer than before the scheme started.
“You would not believe how many people face delays simply because clothes can’t be found for them,” said Ms Hopper.
As one of 50 ‘Vanguard sites’ chosen by NHS England, Sutton is developing a care home provider network to support training across local care homes, and a new model of health and social care locally.
Jason Morris, a clinical team leader with the London Ambulance Service in the St Helier area, said the Red Bag scheme brought standardisation to paperwork for every patient which made the handover process more efficient.
“The service is simply more patient focused,” said Mr Morris.
“Our ambulance crews can be confident in knowing that if they go to pick up a care home patient they will have the patient’s complete paperwork and a change of clothes.
“Red Bag speeds up the process of transferring patients from the care home to the hospital, clinically it speeds up the care patients receive, resulting in a better experience for the patient.”
‘This is Me’
An important part of the process is the “This Is Me” document which stays with the resident throughout their hospital stay and contains information on the individual’s preferences, likes, dislikes and interests.
The initiative has won praise from care home operators. Patricia Fyfe, manager of St Jude’s care home in Sutton, said it had been “eye-opening” to discover what could be achieved through collaboration.
“The main benefit of the scheme to us has been the improvement in communication between the care home and the hospital,” said Ms Fyfe.
“Prior to the scheme starting communication wasn’t great, but now information is easily gathered and shared, leading to more effective treatment.
“Residents come back to us quicker, wearing their own clothes, with their dignity intact. There is a sense of preparedness now. The red bag is quickly packed and the resident is ready to go with all the relevant paperwork and personal belongings.”