Patients being discharged from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust are benefitting from enhanced welfare support and a more streamlined service, thanks to a pilot scheme in partnership with Age UK Lancashire.
The scheme, which is one of the first in the UK, was set up earlier this year and is planned to run for six months, using a lease car to offer transport to patients being discharged from hospital rather than an ambulance. It also offers a tiered ‘take home and settle service’, which includes an assessment at the patients home to establish practical and emotional support to avoid readmission to hospital.
Now, rather than travelling home in a shared ambulance, patients can enjoy a more comfortable drive, freeing up ambulances to deal with those who need specialist support, such as stretcher support.
The car, which was procured through Age UK Lancashire, has six bookable appointments per day, and is driven by an Age UK Lancashire Aftercare Wellbeing Advisor alongside a Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Passenger Discharge Transport Assistant. They will take the patient home, where a therapist will meet the car to carry out home assessments including safe transfer, ordering equipment and minor adaptations and booking further support visits if needed.
Prior to the scheme, some therapist appointments were cancelled due to delays in transport, so this new initiative is minimising this alongside alleviating anxiety for the patient and their family.
Jane Kitchen, Operational Discharge Lead at the Trust, helped to set up the scheme. She said: “It has been wonderful to work collaboratively with our system partners to make better use of resources and services whilst achieving patient centred outcomes. Before this trial if a patient was assessed as needing the assistance of two people to mobilise or transfer, they would have to travel on an ambulance, and this puts pressure on our ambulance patient transport colleagues as the home first service relies on a coordinated arrival of the patient and the therapists to complete the assessment and ensure the patient is safe in their own home.
“By travelling in a car rather than an ambulance, it supports the message to the patient and family that they are progressing with their recovery and independence and do not require specialist vehicles, giving confidence to maximising their own independence or families feeling able to take their loved ones in the car with them to shopping or other outings.”
Peter Chamberlain, the Passenger Discharge Transport Assistant at the Trust, has been driving the car for patients since the pilot began. He said: “Since starting my employment I have realised there any many benefits for our patients. They find it to be informal and less clinical than ambulance transport which in turn leads to the patients feeling more relaxed and willing to chat about how they feel about going home. Any worries or needs they might have we can assure them about and pass their concerns onto the Home First teams or put services in place to support. The feedback we have received so far has been really positive.”
Following the therapist assessment, Age UK Lancashire then complete a full holistic assessment of the patients needs to determine what practical and emotional support is needed, including working with healthcare professionals across the system to provide wrap around support such as property assessments, emergency shops for household items, referrals and signposts the other services.
Each service is tailored to the patients needs, however if this is not required, patients will still receive a welfare call the next day to ensure they are managing at home, and again after a week to confirm they are well at home.
Michelle Turner, Services Manager at Age UK Lancashire, said: “We have been working in collaboration with the hospital Trust to support more people being discharged from hospital on a Home First pathway. This partnership has reduced the need for private ambulance transport and for more patients to return home safely knowing that they will also receive the ongoing wrap around service available, avoiding unnecessary readmissions to hospital. I am proud of the positive outcomes for patients we have been able to achieve by working together on this pilot.”
Following the success of the pilot and feedback from patients, the Trust is looking for funding to continue the service on a permanent basis moving forward.