Sunderland chosen as national ‘vanguard’ to spearhead improving care for elderly

Main entrance to Sunderland Royal Hospital on Kayll Road, Sunderand.
Main entrance to Sunderland Royal Hospital on Kayll Road, Sunderand.
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WEARSIDE has been chosen to pilot a new scheme aimed at transforming how the long-term sick and elderly are cared for in the community.

Sunderland is one of just 29 “vanguard” areas across the country unveiled in a £200million announcement by NHS England that will take the national lead on changing the way patients are cared for, from next month.

This is a real success for healthcare in Sunderland.

The “Better Health for Sunderland” scheme aims to move specialist care out of hospitals and into the community and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.

Key changes will include an enhanced city-wide Recovery at Home service, which will support people’s recovery after discharge from hospital and prevent future emergency admissions,.

Also, increased co-operation between district nursing, community matrons, social workers, GPs and Age UK Living Well workers, centred on groups of GP practices, so care can be provided in a more co-ordinated way, particularly for patients with the most complex needs.

It comes at a time when Sunderland City Council has predicted Sunderland’s over-65 population will reach almost 60,000 within 10 years.

The number of over-85s is predicted to reach 8,000, with a 40 per cent increase in the number of older people with dementia.

Debbie Burnicle, director of commissioning at NHS Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group, which is working with the council on the project, said: “This is a real success for healthcare in Sunderland, putting our work over the past two years in the national spotlight and making it possible to take a major step forward, in integrating and improving services locally.

“Vanguard status doesn’t necessarily mean extra recurrent money, but will provide access to national support and flexibilities and peer learning, as we strive to ensure more person-centred, co-ordinated care for people, including providing more services outside hospital, getting better value from limited health and social care budgets in the future.

“A vital part of the vanguard programme is about sharing what we have learned with other areas, so that the whole NHS can benefit from innovation.”

Coun Graeme Miller, Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for Health, Housing and Adult Services, said: “We’re delighted in partnership with Sunderland CCG, we’ve been chosen as one of the 29 ‘vanguard’ areas announced by the Government.

“This is all about transforming and improving care for patients, particularly those with complex needs – whether that’s helping them recover in their own homes, surrounded by the people they know and love, rather than having a prolonged hospital stay, or in a community bed if that’s the better option for them.

“We believe this approach will help us make a real difference to people’s lives.”

Back in October, hospital chiefs said A&E admissions at Sunderland Royal Hospital rose between seven and eight per cent over the past year, compared to a national average of three to five per cent.

Almost 270 groups of nurses, doctors and other health and social care staff from across the country, put forward their ideas for redesigning care in their areas, then helped choose the 29 most innovative plans, which will share £200million in Government funding.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, said: “This is a pivotal moment for the NHS and supports the Government’s long-term plan to deliver more joined-up, proactive, personalised care for our most vulnerable. By integrating services and moving more care closer to people’s homes, we can ensure efficient spending, and prevent unnecessary trips to hospital for the frail, elderly and people with long-term conditions.”