Thousands of care home residents will benefit from an innovation designed to make emergency hospital visits safer and speed up discharge after health and care chiefs agreed to extend the innovative Red Bag scheme across the whole of south London.
The news comes on United Nation’s International Day of Older Persons (1st October) and means older residents enjoy a more personal and seamless health and care service.
Started three years ago, Sutton Vanguard’s Hospital Transfer Pathway Red Bag ensures key info such as existing medical conditions and other clinical information is communicated and helps ensure residents return to their care home as promptly as possible once hospital treatment is completed. On average 2.4 bed days are saved per Red Bag used.
Developed by NHS and care home staff, the Red Bag has already been adopted across 11 London boroughs and Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group is planning to roll it out across the borough in November. NHS England unveiled a Red Bag scheme toolkit in June to encourage all areas of the country to adopt the scheme.
Care homes across south London, holding more than 13,000 care home beds between them, have committed to taking part in the Red Bag – a simple innovation which ensures records and personal belongings are kept safe when a care home resident is transferred into hospital. The London Ambulance Service transferred more than 12,000 care home residents to hospital in an emergency last year in south London.
Under the new scheme, when a patient is taken into hospital in an emergency they have a Red Bag to take with them. The bag contains:
- General health information, including on any existing medical conditions
- Medication information so ambulance and hospital staff know immediately what medication they are taking
- Personal belongings (such as clothes for day of discharge, glasses, hearing aid, dentures or other items)
The Red Bag also clearly identifies a patient as being a care home resident and provides hospital staff with the information they need to speed up clinical decisions.
Since its introduction in Sutton, the Red Bag, which has been used with care home residents 2,000 times in south London since April 2017, has also stopped patients losing personal items such as dentures, glasses and hearing aids worth £290,000 in a year. The potential for the innovation is significant with a predicted two million more people aged over 75 in ten years’ time. This populace is also spending more years in ill-health than ever before.
Caroline Dinenage, Care Minister, said: “The Red Bag is a great innovation that helps link up health and care services for older people, so it’s fantastic news that the whole of south London is now committed to using it. Not only is this more efficient – saving valuable resources – but it leads to a much better experience for patients leaving hospital when their treatment has finished. It’s encouraging to see the scheme being rolled out even further across the country as we move towards our ambition of joined up care that is centred around the individual.”
Aditee Naik, Peartree Care Home Manager, said: “Care home residents are at their most vulnerable when they travel in an emergency into hospital. Sometimes it’s the personal touch that makes a big difference to patients, especially if they’re elderly, and the Red Bag helps people feel reassured. It’s great that on United Nations International Day of Older Persons, here across the whole of south London we are celebrating the fact that the Red Bag is helping ensure our older residents have the best care.”
Jason Morris, London Ambulance Service Clinical Team Leader, who helped develop the Red Bag at Sutton CCG during its national Vanguard status, said: “The Red Bag standardises the process of handover from a care home and means we can get all the essential information in one go, no matter which home in they’re in.
“We’re delighted this scheme has led to such a wide range of benefits for us, our colleagues in hospitals as well as care home staff. But most importantly, it’s seen improvements in the care of these patients who can go to the hospital with everything they need.”
Stephanie Watts, NHS Greenwich CCG Commissioning Manager, said: “The Red Bag pathway is a true example of collaboration between health and care agencies. It works well because all the agencies involved in patient transfers from care homes are invested in it.
“Use of the Red Bags has a number of proven benefits which we are already beginning to see, even though it’s only been a few months, including things like increased communication between hospital teams and Care Home staff, shorter stays in hospital and improved quality of information provided to Care Homes when their residents are discharged.”
Chris Terrahe, Deputy Director of Nursing at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, said: “We are delighted to be working alongside our partners in Croydon CCG and local care homes as part of the new Red Bag scheme in the borough. For care home residents arriving at or leaving hospital, it should make things much more efficient because all the vital information about their health will be in one place.”
Dr Agnelo Fernandes, Clinical Chair of NHS Croydon CCG and local GP said: “I’m delighted that the Red Bag is being rolled out in Croydon. We’ve seen that it can really reduce hospital stays for care home residents, ultimately improving their quality of life.”
Sarah Blow, Senior Responsible Officer for South West London Health and Care Partnership, said: “We’re incredibly proud of the work being done to improve the health of older people in Sutton by bringing together health and social care providers. Having seen the benefits to patients, we have already rolled out the red bag scheme in other boroughs in south west London, so we’re delighted that this will become a national scheme.”
Tara Donnelly, Chief Executive of the Health Innovation Network, said: “Our hospitals provide great care, but no one wants to spend any longer there than they need to and being transferred from a care home to hospital in an emergency can feel traumatic. That’s why the Red Bag is a great example of a simple idea with a big impact.”