Enhancing health care in care homes: integration in practice

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Many care homes provide laudably caring environments for residents living with frailty, dementia and complex needs, often in the face of funding constraints and recruitment problems. Indeed, ‘enhanced care in care homes’, is one of the new care models set out in the NHS five year forward view, and six vanguard sites are currently taking work forward to offer older people better, more joined-up care and rehabilitation services. This is good news, as it is high time this issue was brought to the fore – for a number of reasons.

First, we are talking about large numbers: an estimated 380,000 people live in approximately 17,000 nursing or residential homes in England – 95 per cent of them over 65. There are around three times as many adults in care homes as in general hospital beds. For the foreseeable future people will continue to live in care homes, and they have the same rights to care as the rest of us.

Second, care home residents have complex needs, as the British Geriatrics Society set out in its paper, ‘Quest for quality’. For instance, approximately two-thirds of care home residents are immobile or need assistance with mobility, four-fifths have dementia or other mental impairment, and two-thirds live with urinary or faecal incontinence or both. The median number of prescribed medications is nine per resident. Stroke, movement disorders and other progressive neurological conditions are common, as is progressive cardiorespiratory disease. Most residents suffer recurrent falls.

Third, these health care needs are not consistently well-met. A joint report by the British Geriatrics Society and the Care Quality Commission, ‘Failing the frail’, revealed a patchy and chaotic approach to commissioning and providing health care services for care home residents. These missing services and care gaps included medication review, care planning, access to normal primary care services, rehabilitation after acute illness, and allied health professional input on speech therapy and specialist mental health support. Furthermore, too many residents are admitted to hospital, particularly near the end of their life, for want of advance care planning or access to palliative care. Recent studies have shown that proactive medical review and more responsive support for care home residents can reduce emergency hospital admissions in general and that repeated hospital admissions make little difference to residents’ outcomes.

Fourth, care home staff have major responsibilities for delivering personalised care and support for residents. Yet the Care Quality Commission State of care report in 2012/13 highlighted issues in many homes around risk, safety and safeguarding, medicines management and basic care, with staff recruitment and retention identified as key determinants.

Finally, if we are looking at the need for more integrated working to support older people across several sectors, care homes could play a critical role. There are thousands of facilities - from small private concerns, to those run by social enterprises, charities and large chains - all sitting at complex interfaces with primary, acute and community care, palliative care, mental health care, statutory home care services and housing. It’s a complex web.

On 2 July, The King’s Fund hopes to celebrate some solutions to these problems in its one-day conference on enhancing health care in care homes. It’s part of our wider programme of work on improving services for older people, including our report on making health and care systems fit for an ageing population, and a series of conferences and smaller workshops.

Highlights include an update from some of the Forward View vanguard sites, a focus on the use of telehealth for care home residents, and panel discussions on the role of inspection and regulation and where care homes might fit into new models of integrated care.

Beyond creating some needed heat and light in this key area, we hope the conference generates some real momentum and cross-agency collaboration, so that NHS England continues to prioritise it and the incoming government doesn’t forget it.


Penny Davison

Commissioning Manager,
NHS Sunderland CCG
Comment date
23 May 2015
I have had the great pleasure of working with people from the NHS, Social Care and Care Homes in Sunderland to deliver Enhanced Care in Care Homes. The programme is making a fantastic difference to the residents, families and staff! Just need to get on and deliver it to all the care homes in Sunderland, learning lessons from ourselves and elsewhere as we go!

I too was at the event with Jayne and was impressed by the passion and desire to work together to make a real difference!

Although Sunderland is not a Vanguard programme for care homes we are Vanguard programme for MSCP which does include enhanced care homes as part of our bid!

Jayne Muir

Home Manager,
Caring Home Healthcare Group
Comment date
21 May 2015
As being very new to this - I was invited to talk with Julienne Meyer at the Kings Fund Event today - I am passionate about care of the elderly but am facing the ever increasing battle of the dreaded CQC!

George Coxon

Various inc care home owner & Devon kitemark Chair,
Comment date
19 May 2015
Always pleased to read your blogs David and so glad to see what I perseve as ever supportive care home comments in a climate of much negative adverse media headlines of care home bashing. I'm fresh from an exceptional evening residents&guests meeting full of humour & positivity. We are in coproduction flow with out local GP Federation as well as another project with our NHS FT ( RDE) Our meeting tonight had 2 senior research academics join us prior to our first care home SIG tomorrow who've already tweeted about what a great time they had at our meeting where we talked about dementia awareness week, dying matters week, reflecting best practice regarding LGBT issues in care homes and culminated in an emotional singalong of Danny Botled by Harold one of our residents. We are a front foot care home modest but proud of the life we live and the energy and imagination we generate. We are part of the solution to a health& social care system in crisis But we need more & better engagement in the Vanguard programme. I'm working with NHS England seniors on this & connecting with the vanguard leads on how we benefit from innovation Our mtg tonight was very united in the KPOOH factor keeping people out of hospital this is where we must devote more attention both for cost and more critically care reasons.
Thanks again David. Sorry not to be joining the 2nd July event. Hope it inspires more determination for impact & engagement for us small providers

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