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Plan for rapid NHS Community Response teams

£14m funding for Urgent Community Response teams

Adrian O'Dowd

Monday, 27 January 2020

Multi-disciplinary groups of qualified professionals acting as expert rapid response teams will be on hand within two hours to help support older people remain well at home and avoid hospital admissions, it has been announced.

NHS England said local health service and council teams will begin the roll out of Urgent Community Response teams from April, as part of the NHS Long Term Plan to support England’s ageing population and those with complex needs.

Backed by £14m of investment, seven “accelerator” sites will be the first to deliver the new standards for care.

The idea is for these teams to give people in need fast access to a range of qualified professionals who can address both their health and social care needs, including physiotherapy and occupational therapy, medication prescribing and reviews, and help with staying well-fed and hydrated.

Older people and adults with complex health needs who have a very urgent care need, including a risk of being hospitalised, will be able to access a response from the team within two hours to provide the care they need to remain independent.

A “two day standard” will also apply for teams to put in place tailored packages of intermediate care, or reablement services, for individuals in their own homes, with the aim of restoring independence and confidence after a hospital stay.

NHS teams in seven parts of the country will begin working with their local authority counterparts on developing the services and recruiting staff from April, with the ambition that at least three areas will be fully up and running by next winter.

Further areas across England will receive extra funding to begin working to the new standards from 2021, with every part of the country covered by April 2023.

This will be supported by an additional £4.5bn a year for primary care and community services by 2023-24.

NHS England chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, said: “The NHS working hand in glove in the community with council-funded social care services can be the difference between an older person or someone with long-term health needs spending a week or a month on a ward – or getting the right help early so they don’t need to go to hospital in the first place.

“That’s why as part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS we are putting community services front and centre, and backing them with a growing share of the NHS budget.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) gave a cautious welcome to the announcement with Dr Richard Vautrey, GP committee chair at the BMA, saying: “Providing more support and treatment for patients at home by dedicated specialist teams visiting them rather than having to travel to hospital could help many patients and also reduce the pressure on currently overstretched services, both in hospitals and the community.

“While these expert rapid response teams could make a big difference to patients, this will need additional staff who have the skills and capacity to respond swiftly when patients need them.

“They will also need to deal properly and comprehensively with a patient's needs, with the ability to access the necessary support that someone may require, and not simply make additional requests of practices who are already struggling with their current workload pressures.”

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, said: “Long, avoidable hospital stays can be particularly distressing for older people and can strip them of their independence – something we absolutely must prevent.

“So we are rolling out this innovative new approach which will help treat our ageing population in the comfort of their own homes, helping them live independent lives for longer.”

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