Care homes in Newcastle, Gateshead, South Tyneside and South Tees are implementing a new digital application which will connect them to local NHS services.
Care homes are usually not connected to NHS IT systems so care home staff need to rely on telephone calls to local NHS services when they have concerns about a resident. This takes them away from the fantastic care they deliver to their residents at the bedside.
296 care homes around the North East and North Cumbria region are implementing the new digital solution from Health Call. Health Call is a collaboration of seven NHS trusts who provide digital health solutions across the region, and beyond. Inhealthcare provides the technology to the Health Call collaboration.
They provide each care home with a toolkit so care home staff can carry out observations using an NHS-approved method called Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation (SBAR). The SBAR Digital Referral and Remote Monitoring Tool is used to provide contextual referral information, including the observations which are used to calculate the NEWS2 score. The NEWS2 score is the nationally recognised early warning score.
The care home staff take several readings using the equipment in the toolkit. They record the resident’s clinical observations and any concerns on the tablet provided. The readings and the NEWS2 score are sent electronically to local NHS services which integrates with the patient’s existing medical record.
When healthcare teams receive the information, they have a high-quality referral, and they use the data captured to assess which patients require the most urgent action. The solution is already in use in County Durham but is now being expanded to more care homes across the region.
During the COVID-19 pandemic the application has enabled NHS teams to provide outstanding care, whilst reducing the risk of coronavirus infection, through minimising the need for unnecessary care home visits.
Health Call has worked with the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC) which has supported the roll out in County Durham. Having seen the patient benefits of the service in County Durham, the AHSN NENC developed a proposal for NHSX who are responsible for IT and the data provision across the NHS, as part of its Joined-Up Care Programme. Their aim is to support a rapid roll out, at scale in areas that were keen to deliver the solution but faced barriers around its implementation.
NHSX has funded this work – as part of the Innovation Collaborative – to “level up” more of the regional care homes. This funding has made it possible for the expansion of the service into the new areas.
Ian Dove, Director at Health Call said: “We could see from our evaluation of the County Durham project that each care home, on average reduced inappropriate hospital referrals by 50 per cent. Staff in the care homes and NHS teams have also been really positive about the impact the technology has had. We are really looking forward to expanding Digital Care Homes to other parts of our region over the coming weeks so more patients and staff can benefit.”
Dr Nicola Hutchinson, Chief Executive Officer at the AHSN NENC said: “Our role as an AHSN is to support, develop and evaluate new innovations and where appropriate, adopt these products into the North East and North Cumbria region, as well as further afield. The Digital Care Homes tool has already brought significant benefits to care home staff, clinicians and, more importantly, to care home residents.
“Health Call is a unique, regional organisation, which is wholly owned by the NHS, and I’m delighted to see this innovative tool being made available to more care homes across the region.”