A new scheme, which has been pioneered in Northamptonshire, aims to enable better care for older and vulnerable whilst saving the local NHS millions of pounds each year.
The Yellow Bracelet scheme was developed to reduce unnecessary hospital admissions for the more than 4,600 patients with domiciliary packages of care in the county. Data collected in 2016 showed a third of these patients are taken to hospital when attended by the ambulance service – many needlessly.
The project has been developed through the Northamptonshire Health and Care Partnership with technology firm Sundown Solutions.
It provides patients with their own yellow bracelet with a QR code, which can be scanned using a specially designed app, giving ambulance crews instant access to data about patient’s domiciliary care package, their personal needs and the support they have available at home.
Gabriella O’Keeffe, Head of Quality Improvement for Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Groups who developed the initiative, explains: “The yellow bracelets will give health and care professionals instant access to information about patients’ individual circumstances, and this could be hugely valuable to ensure they receive the right care in the right place.
“When a patient is clearly vulnerable and it’s not immediately clear what support they have available at home, hospital can sometimes be the only option as a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach. But it isn’t necessarily the best place for that person.
“The yellow bracelets will allow community teams to include district nurses, ambulance crews and rapid response teams to easily see what support the patient has in place as part of their domiciliary care package – and enable them to contact the care provider to ask questions, if necessary. If a trip to hospital is required, the yellow bracelet is placed on the persons wrist and the same information is therefore made available to support decisions about whether or not they need to be admitted. By providing that reassurance, we hope the scheme can prevent unnecessary hospital stays and enable timely discharge, once the service user is medically ready.”
The data is also available to GPs and social care providers to support more joined-up care and better outcomes for patients.
Ross Sargent is a Registered Manager for the Northampton Nursing and Carers Agency (NNCA) in Northampton, and has been with the organisation for almost 8 years. He was an early adopter of the Yellow Bracelet scheme.
“We were one of the first care agencies to register for the Yellow Bracelet scheme,” he explains. “When we signed up it was a pilot and agencies could only register NHS service user but it’s been expanded now and we are able to register all service users onto the system.
“The reason we were keen to sign up quickly is because we could see the benefits not only for our service users but also for the business and we actively encouraged our service users to be on it. It has already made such a difference. Our service users are being discharged much more easily from hospital because the hospital can scan the bracelet and see there is a care package in place for them and which agency is delivering it.
“We often get calls from hospital about our service users and then we can start to work together to get them home as soon as they’re medically fit. The last thing we want in the interests of our service users is for them to spend any longer in hospital than they need to; they are at risk of picking up infections in hospital or losing muscle function if they in for a long time, which results in requiring follow-up rehabilitation and they’re also much happier at home in familiar surroundings.
“So we will work with the hospital to review the care package our service user has in place to ensure it still going to meet their needs once they are ready to go home. If it doesn’t, then we will adjust it to ensure they are going to have sufficient support in place once they are discharged. It also enables us to have a conversation with the hospital. There are often little things that we know about as carers that the hospital won’t be aware of, like food they don’t like or how to make them feel at ease if they’re worried and anxious, that can help to make their time in hospital a bit easier.
“The Yellow Bracelet scheme also ensures service users come back to carers who know them and with people who are familiar to them, once they have been discharged. It removes the risk of new care packages being unnecessarily set-up with a different care agency because no-one was aware they already had a care package in place. As a business we only get paid if we’re going in and caring for the service users so it’s also in our interests to ensure they come back to us. And these are service users we have often been caring for years. We would miss them if they went to a different care agency.
“We just want to get them home and get them looked after – the Yellow Bracelet scheme always allows us to do this.”