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Social support for elderly post-hospital drives down readmission, pilot shows

Support for older patients after they were discharged from hospital led to a reduced rate of readmission and improved patients’ welfare, new research shows.

The ‘Hospital to Home’ service in Leicester and Leicestershire led to 9.2% of patients aged over 75 being readmitted within 30 days, against 15% nationally.

The pilot scheme, from Leicestershire County Council, was staffed by 143 Royal Voluntary Service volunteers, who offered six weeks of practical and emotional support to patients aged over 55 who lack a social network.

Cllr Dave Houseman, Leicestershire County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, said: “We’ve made significant improvements in reducing the time it takes to transfer people from hospital to a care setting.

“We’re also encouraged that, compared to similar authorities, Leicestershire is the fourth best out of 22 local authorities when it comes to reducing delays attributable to adult social care in 2015-16, and this improving picture is a result of collaborative working with families, carers, partners in the NHS, clinical commissioning groups, the voluntary sector and district and borough councils.”

David McCullough, chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service, argued that a stay in hospital “can be disorientating”, and that it is “particularly hard to settle back into your home” if no one is there to give words of encouragement, make you a cup of tea or check that you have your medication.

“These are all simple things but this analysis proves just how vital that support is to the recovery of an older person who has been in hospital,” he continued.

“No one should have to go home alone unless they choose to and it’s in no one’s benefit that they do, not the older person nor the NHS as they are more likely to be readmitted if they are not given the support they need after leaving hospital.”

Among patients who took part in the programme, 70% said their social contact had improved, 52% said it had boosted their confidence and 47% said it had increased their happiness levels.

The Hospital to Home programme was supported by the Cabinet Office as part of the Reducing Winter Pressures programme, which pilots social approaches to reducing pressures on hospitals.

A recent Public Accounts Committee report said local authorities must improve their delivery of integrated services in order to prevent delayed discharges of elderly patients.

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