A pioneering pilot scheme to help ease the pressures on NHS resources this winter is being spearheaded by Somerset County Council and local NHS partners.
Starting in the next few months, the trial will see the authority base a social worker in the A&E departments at the county’s two major hospitals – Musgrove Park in Taunton and Yeovil Hospital.
The pilot initiative will run through the winter so that social care expertise is immediately available in A&E when needed.
Some of the people who go to A&E don’t need urgent medical care but go there because they are not sure where else to turn in a crisis. Some of these cases could be better dealt with by social care, and the Social Worker presence will help A&E staff get a better understanding of the support that social care may be able to offer.
The Council is also looking to trial having a social worker based at the South Western Ambulance Service control centre to see if this too can relieve some of the winter pressures. People sometimes call 999 for an ambulance when a social care or mental health response would be more appropriate
“The winter period is always a busy time one for our hospitals and A&E in particular,” said Councillor David Huxtable, Cabinet member for Adult Services.
“As health and social care work closer and closer together, we’re always looking for ways in which we can help people get the right support as quickly as possible.
“We think that a social care presence in Somerset’s A&E could give people the right support and advice immediately, as well as freeing up capacity for health staff to deal with the urgent admissions.”
Dr Ed Ford, Chair of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group and Minehead GP, said: “It is fantastic to see health and care services working more closely together to support patients to get the help they need when they need it.
“We firmly believe that in many cases the best bed is your own bed. This initiative will not only improve patient experience and care but also support more people to return home as quickly as possible. It will make a real difference for both patients and staff.”
The initiative builds on two projects already up and running in Somerset – Rapid Response and Home First – where the County Council and the NHS are working in partnership.
Home First reduces hospital stays by offering patients the opportunity to finish their therapy out of the hospital with tailored help from professionals – providing better outcomes and freeing-up vital hospital beds.
Since its launch two years ago more than 5,000 people have been helped by Home First; saving over 50,000 bed days and reducing permanent placements in care homes by more than 10 per cent.
The Rapid Response Service aims to keep people at home, instead of being admitted to hospital. Service staff make a home visit to see whether the individual can be looked after at home instead of being admitted to hospital. The service aims to put support in place so that the person can stay at home.
Rapid Response works with other services, including GPs, the ambulance service, NHS 111, social care and local charities.