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Bringing elderly care closer to home

Bringing “care closer to home”

It’s a key phrase for the NHS in Dorset at the moment and a main plank of the much-anticipated changes for the future of healthcare in the county.  But what does it actually mean?

This autumn the NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) announced a raft of changes across all fields of NHS care including the NHS services for elderly care across the county.  The plans that particularly involve older people include having 13 “Community Hubs” in Dorset. Most are based in community hospitals.

Nine of these will have beds: they’re in Bridport, Sherborne, Blandford, Wimborne, Shaftesbury, Weymouth, Swanage, Poole and Bournemouth.  The Hubs without beds will be in Dorchester, Wareham, Portland and Christchurch.

The CCG says that 10,000 more people will be supported in the community and 100,000 outpatient hospital appointments will be moved away from the “acute” hospitals to the community facilities.

Why?

The CCG says: “We believe that we can significantly reduce the number of elderly people attending hospital by delivering more care closer to home.

“This means supporting people in community settings such as their own homes, making more services available in local communities, having health and social care working closely together to support people.  All with a view to better integrating physical and mental health services and developing community hubs across the county.”

So what is a community hub?

We all know the frustration – and possibilities for bad communication – when we have to repeat our situation, over and over again to every different health professional or organisation who seem to work independently of each other.  In the worst-case scenario, that can lead to delays in receiving care or opportunities for intervention missed.

Working as part of a community hub or multi-disciplinary team means that teams collaborate and specialists work together on the same site for the benefit of the patient.  It also means that a greater number of patients could be seen, making waiting times shorter.

Christchurch Health Hub

Christchurch, recently dubbed “dementia capital of the UK” has a Health Hub made up of Christchurch Hospital, (which includes x-ray, blood and therapy services), a doctors’ surgery, pharmacy, care home and assisted living accommodation.  It saves particularly elderly people having to travel to the Royal Bournemouth or Poole Hospitals for non-acute care needs.

It’s easy to get to via public transport and allows healthcare professionals to support their patients outside of an inpatient facility, which, says the CCG, is better for patients’ independence and overall health.

Here’s a video about the Weymouth Community Hub:

The CCG says that the changes will mean more and faster access to urgent and routine care. More information and support will be available so people can take better control of their own health, reducing the need for outpatient and follow-up appointments.

There will be more rapid discharge back home after a stay in hospital or at a Hub because of closer working with social care agencies.  A number of treatments currently requiring an acute hospital visit, like therapy, phlebotomy treatments and anti-coagulation services, will be in a community setting instead.

There should be less time waiting for tests, results, X-rays and appointments because they will be available more locally, at the same place.  Frail older people or those with long-term conditions should see fewer health complications and poor outcomes because of local support from the mixed teams of health and care professionals.

And last but not least, in theory, you should only have to tell your story once; as staff will all have access to the same information.

It’s early days and time will tell how the plan translates into the reality. For more information on the future of healthcare in Dorset visit: https://www.dorsetsvision.nhs.uk

Do you have an opinion on these changes?  Join our forum –  and let us know – or find our group on facebook – AgeSpace Dorset or @AgeSpaceDorset on twitter.

What’s a CCG?

NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is the commissioning organisation for the whole county of Dorset. Its membership comes from the 100 local GP practices in the county.

What does it do?

The main work is to plan, develop and buy health services on behalf of local people. That includes planned and emergency hospital care; community health services; mental health and learning disability services; rehabilitation; maternity children’s and family services and NHS continuing healthcare.

Anne King is a Director of Dorset-based, award-winning Watershed PR.  For more information please contact Anne@watershedpr.co.uk


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