It’s true to say that our health and social care system is difficult to navigate, even for clinicians at times.
There is a growing consensus, across integrated care systems particularly, that this must change. Patients should only need to tell their story once before they get the right care, at the right time, in the right place.
Impartial Assessors, a ‘worry catcher’ service, and Care Navigators are amongst those helping people negotiate the NHS and social care system. Some have reduced hospital stays by two days per person, which is good news for patients who can get home more quickly, and good news for the system.
These supportive navigator roles have been welcomed by the Carers Trust, a charity that recently called for more help for older carers to navigate the complex health and care system. With 61% of carers saying their physical health has worsened as a result of their caring role, having access to a Care Coordinator can help to ease some of the pressures of caring for a family member or friend.
It’s great to learn about the places where these roles are making a difference. For example in Leicestershire, Care Navigators are helping people to stay independent for longer in their own homes. They visit patients on behalf of the GP to see if they have any extra needs, and are able to put them in touch with a wide range of other services. In just one year the Care Navigators have seen 1,494 people referred to them.
In Hertfordshire and West Essex, Impartial Assessors assess elderly patients so care homes can decide whether they are able to return home. They work with the patient, hospital discharge teams and care home staff to represent the patient’s needs and reduce their length of stay in hospital. Already, figures show a reduction of one or two days in hospital for elderly care home residents.
A ‘worry catcher’ service is provided by Age UK Nottingham & Nottinghamshire in Nottingham City Care Homes as well as on all Mental Health Services for Older People (MHSOP) wards throughout Nottinghamshire. They see a few thousand people a year with more than 1,500 seen in two of the mental health wards last year – the service has now been extended to all their MHSOP wards due to its success. They talk to people using a simple set of questions, and support with issues large or small, aiming to have a positive impact on the older person’s health and improve their quality of life.
Working with the third sector
The schemes are led by local relationships between the NHS, councils and third sector parties like Age UK, where they are keen to do things better, make sure people’s voices are heard and keep people well at home or in their care home for longer. They are all funded or commissioned jointly by the local council, NHS and voluntary sector, which prevents any duplication of work.
Similar schemes are also happening in a variety of other areas including Blackpool, West Yorkshire, Gateshead and Kent. It’s fantastic to see the spread of much needed support for older people in a complex system. These important roles are really making a difference to people’s lives and the more we can do to ease their path to the best possible care, the better.