New service helps keep Sunderland woman away from A&E

Linda Douglas, from Blackfell in Washington.
Linda Douglas, from Blackfell in Washington.
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A Wearside woman whose health problems meant she was having to visit A&E up to twice a day has hailed a new way of working that is helping her manage her condition at home.

Linda Douglas, 48, from Washington, who suffers from a range of complex health issues including osteoarthritis, osteopenia, curvature of the spine and abdominal discomfort following surgery including gall bladder and appendix removal, was left desperate after experiencing pain so severe that she needed daily doses of morphine to control it.

Things had just got so bad that I was either in total agony, or so drugged up on painkillers that I slept round the clock.

Linda Douglas

Now, thanks to a new service – All Together Better – Linda and her carer husband John are looking forward to a happier 2016.

The service is bringing together health and social care in a bid to offer a range of care and support wrapped around the people who need it most, helping keep them out of hospital and in their own home.

“We were at the end of our rope,” explained Linda, of Blackfell.

“Things had just got so bad that I was either in total agony, or so drugged up on painkillers that I slept round the clock.

“I would feel that I was taking up a bed in hospital, and taking up an ambulance that somebody really, really poorly might need, but at the same time, I had no other option.

“The pain would get so bad that I couldn’t cope and there was nobody willing to help me.

“It was a desperate situation.

“I used to just sit and cry.”

All Together Better is designed to both support people who need short-term, temporary care to help get them home as soon as possible after hospital treatment, or to support them to live independently at home if they are frail.

“It’s life changing,” added Linda.

“I didn’t want to live life the way I was, in and out of A&E all of the time.”

As part of the programme – which aims to keep people living independently, in their home - it was agreed that training would be offered to John to allow him to administer drugs to deal with pain which is caused by the cumulative effect of major surgery on several organs in her abdomen.

John, 50, was forced to leave his job of 30 years of working to become Linda’s full time carer, but is delighted that she is beginning to regain some of her independence.

He said: “The difference now is unbelievable.

“The support we have received has given us our life back.”

All Together Better is one of the first of 50 “Vanguard” projects funded by NHS England, designed to test “new care models” that join-up relevant services for local communities to keep them well and out of hospital.

Sunderland is one of the areas that is blazing a trail for new models of care, and if the programme is considered a success by NHS England, the new way of working could be adopted by towns and cities across England.

Kerry McQuade, head of Vanguard Sunderland, said: “People like Linda and John prove that this joint-working approach is what is needed to deliver a step change in care for some of the most poorly and vulnerable people in Sunderland.”