The NHS red bag is a brilliantly simple initiative making a big difference

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In the London Borough of Sutton, the 'Red Bag' initiative is making a big difference to the transfer of patients between local care homes and NHS hospitals in the region.

Formally known as the Hospital Transfer Pathway (HTP), the initiative involves a little red bag being given to every care home resident in the Sutton region. The bag contains medical records, discharge details and space for the patient's personal belongings, and has been developed to increase collaboration between care homes and NHS hospitals, and make the admission/discharge process between the two, much more efficient.

This post looks a little further into the 'Red Bag' initiative and the positive impact it is having in care homes and the NHS across Sutton.

What is the 'Red Bag' initiative?

Sutton Homes of Care worked in partnership with the Epsom and St Helier Hospital NHS Trust, Sutton and Merton Community Services, London Ambulance Service and staff from Sutton care homes, to develop the 'Red Bag' initiative. The initiative's purpose is to increase collaboration and greatly ease the transfer of patients between hospitals and care homes.

The 'Red Bag' initiative involves a red kit bag which is compiled for every care home resident in the Sutton region. The red bag contains information about the resident's general health, any existing medical conditions they have, and any medication they are taking. It also has room for the patient's personal belongings (e.g. clothes, books etc.).

Patient admittance and discharge from hospital is much more efficient

When a care home resident is admitted to hospital, the information in the red bag means that ambulance and hospital staff can determine the resident's treatment needs much more quickly and effectively.

Likewise, when patients are ready to leave hospital and go back into a care home, the discharge process is much simpler. The red bag contains clothes for discharge and clearly identifies a patient as being a care home resident, which often leads to the patient leaving the hospital sooner. A copy of their discharge summary is placed in the red bag so that care home staff have access to this important information when the resident arrives back in the home.

The 'Red Bag' contains a patient's medical paperwork, discharge history and personal belongings

GPs have also been employed as part of the initiative to carry out regular visits of care homes, with each resident receiving six-monthly check-ups. A pharmacist is on hand to visit homes to carry out medicine reviews, and district nurses have been used to train care home staff in dementia, falls and diabetes.

Learn more about the Hospital Transfer Pathway initative on the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence website

The positive impact on the NHS, care homes and patients

The 'Red Bag' initiative is referred to as 'a small change making a big difference'. The positive impact it has on not only the hospitals and care homes, but also the patient and their families, is bringing great benefit to the care sector in Sutton. Since the project started a year ago, there has been a 10% drop in visits to A&E.

Since the project started a year ago, there has been a 10% drop in visits to A&E

The 'Red Bag' project has been recognised nationally as a big step towards greater cohesion between our care homes and hospitals. The initiative has received prestigious coverage including broadcast by the BBC. Persons involved with the initiative in the Sutton area are full of praise for the initiative.

Praise from those involved with the initiative

Jason Morris, a Clinical Team Leader for the London Ambulance Service in the St Helier area, said: "The great thing about the Red Bag is that, put simply, the service is just more patient focused. Because the paperwork is standardised for every patient the handover to the ambulance crew is much more efficient. The process of transferring patients from the care home to hospital is faster, and when patients arrive in hospital they received the care they need much quicker.

The resident and Red Bag went off to hospital and to our delight two weeks later he returned home fit and well

Eothen Care Home in Sutton was the first to use the Red Bag for one of their residents. Kim Kerwood, the Manager at Eothen Care Home said, "The Red Bag is a simple idea that makes a big difference. On the day it was launched, one of our residents fell and we suspected that sadly he might have a fracture. We got the Red Bag ready and completed the forms for the ambulance crew and hospital staff. The resident and Red Bag went off to hospital and to our delight two weeks later he returned home fit and well and, importantly, with the Red Bag complete with a discharge letter and medication.

Visit the NHS Sutton website for more information about the initiative

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