Visitors to the Isle of Wight are quickly signposted to Queen Victoria’s country residence, the famous Needles rocks or to one of our fabulous beaches.
But, until recently, it wasn’t that easy to find your way to the right health and care services – leading in many cases to people, often frail older residents, having a poorer quality of life.
New model of care: My Life a Full Life
Three years ago, Age UK applied to the island’s My Life a Full Life – a New Care Model vanguard – to pilot a care navigator role for one year across four GP practices.
The care navigator helps patients to access a complex array of health, social care and voluntary sector services. Patients then build up their resilience, particularly when their wellbeing is at risk of getting worse.
Three years on, we now have nine care navigators covering the whole island. During 2016/17, we supported 1,900 older people, with care navigators handling complex caseloads for up to 60 people at any one time – the majority have more than five long-term conditions and nearly a third live with dementia.
Care navigators in practice
Here’s the story of one lady. She was contacting GPs and out-of-hours’ services regularly and missing hospital appointments for osteoporosis.
The care navigator found that the lady had severe anxiety and pain when walking, and arranged support from the Good Neighbour volunteer scheme, decreasing her anxiety and making her feel less isolated.
Further referrals were made to improve the fire safety of her home and to Wight Care to provide a personal alarm to build her confidence. A GP and pharmacist carried out a medication review to help her manage pain.
Essentially, this lady’s quality of life has improved dramatically to the point where it has not been necessary to prescribe antidepressants.
And there’s also a positive impact on services: the lady has not missed another hospital appointment and her contact with GPs and out-of-hours services has dropped from as many as 23 a month to just three.
As the island’s population continues to grow, particularly over 65-year-olds, we believe care navigators will become an increasingly valued service.
We continue to evaluate care navigation but we know from local health professionals that people with complex needs, those with social and psychological needs, learning disabilities, the frail and older, socially isolated individuals are most likely to benefit from the support this service gives.
For many, care navigators are not just signposters – they are often a life line for the most vulnerable in our community.
Care navigators and local area co-ordinators are ‘bridging’ roles in our communities – see how those roles work and the impact they are having in these two infographics: