‘Red bags’ to be rolled out across England’s care homes

NHS England has announced that innovative ‘red bags’ that help care home residents admitted to hospital be discharged quicker are being rolled out across the country.

The innovative red bag scheme was formulated three years ago to help provide a better care experience for care home residents by improving communication between care homes and hospitals. The bags, which contain key paperwork, medication and personal items like glasses, slippers and dentures, are handed to ambulance crews by carers and travel with patients to hospital where they are then handed to the doctor.

Since April, the first parts of the country have formally working as integrated care systems, with the red bag scheme another example of how the NHS is integrating care, working in partnership with social care, to create a seamless pathway for patients so they only have to tell their story once.

For example, the initiative in Sutton has enabled reduced hospital stays by three to four days, saving £167,000 a year, improved communication between care home and hospital staff saving time, resources and duplication, as well as stopped patients losing personal items such as dentures, glasses and hearing aids worth £290,000 in a year. The initiative has seen uptake in other areas following its success; around 50 per cent of Health and Wellbeing Boards report they have started the scheme in their area and 90 per cent say they have an aim to roll it out next year.

Stephen Powis, NHS England National Medical Director, said: “This is an example of where a joined up approach is helping to improve patient care and speed up a stay in hospital for all the right reasons. 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 and more at home. Doing more of the obvious is key to improving all our experiences of care.”

Minister for Care Caroline Dinenage added: “This scheme is an excellent example of the NHS and social care system working together to improve care and support for vulnerable older patients. Not only is this more efficient – saving valuable resources – but it’s a much better experience for patients leaving hospital when their treatment has finished. It’s encouraging to see this scheme being rolled out across the country as we move towards our ambition of joined up care that is centred around the individual.”

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