Frail elderly promised care at home in two hours under new NHS target

Laura Donnelly
The pilot schemes aim to keep more people healthy and independent out of hospital  - PA

Elderly people who need urgent medical care will be promised a response at home within two hours, under new NHS targets. 

Teams of nurses, physiotherapists and care workers will be sent to give on-the-spot help in a bid to prevent thousands of frail pensioners being dumped in hospital.

Health officials say far too many vulnerable people are ending up in Accident and Emergency departments, then enduring long hospital stays, for want of speedy responses to medical crisis.

The new NHS teams, which will be piloted in seven areas, will be expected to administer immediate help. 

Officials said those found to be suffering from an infection might be given antibiotics, with physiotherapy for those with mobility problems, and medication reviews, and help staying hydrated for other patients. 

As well as meeting the two hour target, teams will be expected to ensure that within two days, those in need are given a full package of care to help their recovery. 

And those who are admitted to hospital will also be promised that such care - which could include help washing, cooking and dressing - will be put in place within 48 hours of them being ready for discharge. 

The £14m pilot scheme will be introduced to seven areas covering a population of almost 7 million, with plans to expand it across the whole country by 2023 if it proves successful.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive, said the right work by the NHS and social care services working together, could mean that many pensioners avoided going into hospital at all.

Matt Hancock, Health Secretary, said: "Long, avoidable hospital stays can be particularly distressing for older people and can strip them of their independence - something we absolutely must prevent.

"So we are rolling out this innovative new approach which will help treat our ageing population in the comfort of their own homes, helping them live independent lives for longer."

People will be able to be referred by care workers, GPs, NHS 111 or 999 call operators. 

It follows warnings that the number of dementia patients admitted to hospital via Accident & Emergency units has risen by a third in five years.

Around half of all dementia patients end up in A&E at least once a year, with hundreds then ending up in hospital for up to a  year, the NHS figures show. 

The first seven teams will be: Warrington Together (Cheshire and Merseyside); West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership (Kirklees); Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland system; Cornwall system; Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire system; South East London system; and Norfolk and Waveney system.

Sally Copley, director of policy and campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society said: “Failings in our social care system mean that too often people with dementia are being admitted to hospital for avoidable emergencies like falls, dehydration and infections. Once there, they can often end up stranded for long periods, confused and scared, waiting for appropriate social care support to be in place before they can be discharged.

“The UK Government must take action now to fix the crisis in social care to prevent these avoidable emergencies in the first place. However, we do welcome this move to broaden access to at-home emergency assistance to reduce hospital admissions, which can be hugely traumatic and debilitating for people with dementia, as well as costing the NHS millions.”