The pressures on our accident and emergency services have been well documented in recent weeks.
Sheffield alone has had a 10 per cent increase in admissions compared with last year. A major factor in this growth in demand is our failure to get care in the community right. This results in more people needing costly hospital care. It also makes it harder to get patients back home as soon as they are well, where they want to be.
Throwing more money at the care system might provide a quick fix but it will not be sustainable in the long term. The population is ageing and this means there are more people with more care needs. If we are to meet this extra demand our services need to change and innovate.
Better integration of our health and care services is one way this could be achieved. The Government’s answer is its flagship Better Care Fund – funds released by top-slicing existing budgets to encourage health and care services to work together. It does not constitute innovation.
For a truly innovative example we need look no further than a scheme currently being rolled out across Sheffield. The Keeping People Well project brings together health, social care and the voluntary, community and faith sectors. The focus is those people identified as most at risk of needing help in the next year. They are often lonely and not likely to be in contact with support services.
Sheffield has successfully secured more than £1 million of funding to take forward the project – a strategy to help people stay healthy and well at home, and reduce pressure on health and social care services.
Community support workers, working from GP practices, build support within communities so that help can be easily provided for those who need it. It’s a good example of how the needs of the growing older population and those with long-term health conditions and severe mental illness can be met by using local community assets better. Crucially, as the support comes from the community the support workers can help more people and don’t struggle with a large case load.
This scheme will support thousands more people at moderate to high risk of hospital admission.