In March 2015, we reported that the NHS was establishing a Vanguard scheme involving 6 areas around the UK to lead the way in improving the standard of care for elderly people living in care homes.
A year on and the scheme is in full swing. But is it working?
Hertfordshire was one of the areas chosen, and here the benefits are already beginning to show.
The aim of the Vanguard scheme is to bring about improvements in care - both by integrating medical services in the form of dedicated multi-disciplinary teams to support care home residents, and by improving the skills and confidence of care home staff through a package of education and training.
At Burleigh House, a 44-bed home in Baldock, specialising in dementia care, six staff “champions” have now received up to 18 days training in a particular specialism: dementia; nutrition; engagement and wellbeing; falls and fragility; wound management; and general health– including end of life, continence, neurological and respiratory conditions.
“Staff can identify potential risks earlier and flag them up with doctors before residents’ conditions worsen,”
“We have successfully prevented a number of hospital admissions as we have been able to offer better care.”
Burleigh has also moved the main meal of the day from lunchtime to the evening.
“We learned [from the training] that it would improve nutrition, aid sleep and generally improve residents’ wellbeing.”
"Dinner has now become a more social event and one resident who always insisted on eating in his room now comes into the dining room every evening.”
Director of Burleigh House
So far, 11 Hertfordshire care homes have undertaken the training. Each receives £5,000 from the Better Care Fund – a joint NHS and local authority programme – and from the national NHS Vanguard scheme to cover the cost of additional staff time, so staff champions can be released from the daily rota to attend training sessions.
The programme supports all homes with multidisciplinary teams of health experts, including dieticians, geriatricians, pharmacists, mental health professionals, doctors and nurses, provides a “rapid response” team of clinicians to assist residents in failing health within 60 minutes of a call, and grants GPs access to comprehensive information about each patient during their visits.
From 2017, the project expects to start making annual savings of approximately £300,000 by reducing the costs of hospital care, medicines and ambulance journeys.
The Hertfordshire scheme is one of 6 Vanguard Care Home projects nationally. Already ideas are being exchanged with the other projects. Hertfordshire is considering adopting the “red bag” system being trialled in Sutton, where a resident’s belongings, medication and care information go in and out of hospital with them in an easily identifiable bag, and a telehealth programme in use in Airedale, which enables consultations to take place remotely.