Buttercross: Home care will ease burden on NHS

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We all know of the pressure on hospital beds and how there needs to be a scheme to enable elderly and vulnerable people to be cared for in their homes where possible.

If this could be achieved then available bed spaces in our hospitals would be freed up for more appropriate use.

My brother has made me aware of the “Penwith Pioneers.” This is a scheme in the south-west which has brought together GPs, health workers, Age UK, private healthcare businesses, and, most importantly, volunteers, to manage people’s healthcare problems in their homes.

The initial trial involved a small number of vulnerable people and reduced hospital referrals by some 40 per cent.

A larger trial, involving 1,000 people, is now being undertaken and is producing a similar reduction. That means 400 less hospital referrals. If proof were needed that this scheme is working then there is further anecdotal evidence to support it.

Case one involves an elderly man, living on his own and who has poor circulation and leg ulcers. He keeps missing his hospital appointments and there is a danger of a long hospital stay and, worst case, foot amputation.

The team visits and finds out all about him and assesses what is required. It turns out that the gentleman has constantly received “first thing” appointments and has no way of being able to meet them. Furthermore he has a much loved dog and is worried about how it would cope while he is out or, worse still, had to stay in hospital.

Solution: Organise later appointments and organise lifts from volunteers. Dog carer comes in from down the road when required. Outcome: Legs better. Full mobility and independence. No more hospital visits as he can be monitored from home.

Case two involves a man and wife in poor health and morale. He is diagnosed with life threatening kidney problems and doesn’t see the point of turning up for hospital appointments.

The team visits and assesses the situation as before. It turns out that both husband and wife are artists and are depressed over their inability to get out and paint.

Solution: They are taken out by volunteers to a suitable location with a picnic and left for the day to paint after which they are collected and brought home. Amazing change in morale. Trips out repeated occasionally but now they get out on their own and also with other people. They also have now started a luncheon club. His kidney problems have mysteriously improved. No more need for hospital appointments.

Such a scheme in our area would be hugely beneficial. It obviously needs to be led by one of the aforementioned professional bodies.

But the volunteers required for this scheme are certainly among us. Once up and running, pressures on hospital beds would be undoubtedly eased.

Let us hope we hear more of this initiative and furthermore it is expanded further across the country, and particularly in our area.