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Older PeopleMar 13, 2024

Physios are contributing to 'positive work' that helps people with frailty to live in or near homes

Physiotherapists are playing a key role in community health services that are delivering innovative care for people with frailty in England, a new report shows.

One of the services highlighted in a report published yesterday (12 March) is the seven-days-a-week intermediate care team that is run jointly by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and Walsall Adult Social Care. The national report was prepared by the Community Network that is hosted by the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers.

The Walsall-based team, which includes nurses, social workers, occupational therapists as well as physios, has a remit to give patients and their relatives – or carer if they have one – a short period of intensive support so that they can leave hospital once their health has improved sufficiently.

Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust states: ‘The team offers support to help the patient regain independence. This could be at home, or in a short-stay care home bed, in the best way to meet their needs. It is often after a period of crisis, ill health, disability, or at a time when they may have lost some confidence.’ 

More than one older person in three in England lives with some form of frailty, leaving them vulnerable to dramatic, sudden changes in health that can triggered by seemingly small events.

With half of hospital inpatients aged over 65 being affected by frailty, community providers are central to achieving national ambitions to support more people with frailty to live well at, or closer to, home, the report suggests.

Photo Credit: NHS Confederation
Matthew Taylor hailed a 'shift' in helping people with frailty to live well closer to home

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Glowing feedback from relatives 

Other examples of good practice featured in the report include Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust and Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust.

A relative of a patient who received support from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust service said: ‘We were over the moon when we realised he could have treatment at home rather than going to hospital. The service the team provided was second to none and he was so much better when he was discharged.’

A family member of a Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust patient said: 'My mum got expert care and was involved all the way through the process. The reason why this experience was so important was that it meant her last days were spent with a team who really cared for her, and we could not have asked for more support, not just for her but for us too. The staff and doctors were outstanding in their attention to detail and high level of communication. Very thorough ward and services, lovely caring and kind staff. Much-needed holistic approach.'

There is so much positive work going on to care for people with frailty in or near their homes, which is making a dramatic difference to people’s lives, and those of their families [Matthew Taylor, NHS Confederation]

Investment needed

Sir Julian Hartley, NHS Providers chief executive, said: 'It’s great to see the fantastic work by community service providers who do all they can to give people living with frailty the right care at the right time including help to bounce back from health problems.

'But too many frail people who need well-planned, joined-up care aren’t getting the support they need to live well at home, where many prefer to be. National policymakers must support trusts and patients with far greater investment.'

Matthew Taylor, the NHS Confederation's chief executive, said: ‘There is so much positive work going on to care for people with frailty in or near their homes, which is making a dramatic difference to people’s lives, and those of their families. It is exciting to see community providers at the forefront of this shift to help people with frailty to live well closer to home, and with the right support they are keen to go even further.’

Siobhan Melia, chief executive of Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the Community Network, said: ‘Community providers all over the country are innovating to provide better care to people living with frailty and responding to the needs to their local populations. The feedback we have seen from patients and families continues to drive us to do better.’

Providers, integrated care systems and national policymakers should collaborate to

  • deliver greater investment in public health, prevention and community services to ensure that the sector is adequately resourced to intervene early, prevent deterioration, and where necessary, deliver accessible and modern support, particularly hospital at home/virtual ward, during a crisis and after a hospital stay
  • lift the barriers to further integration between community providers, primary care and social care, particularly around capital investment, digital capacity, data sharing, and reform and investment in social care
  • implement the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, which commits to ensuring there are the right number and mix of staff to deliver more care in the community
  • tackle workforce shortages in social care to ensure that there are sufficient staff in the sector to support people to live flourishing lives in the community, therefore supporting the prevention agenda
  • engage with clinicians to ensure that frontline staff are confident in leading and championing new ways of working and managing risk for these groups of patients
  • engage with people suffering with frailty, as well as their families and carers, to deliver care in a way that best suits their needs and care arrangements
  • enable those working in the health and care sector to work more effectively with people suffering with frailty, as well as their families and carers, to design and deliver care in a way that best suits their needs and care arrangements
Author: I A McMillan
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