The on-call Skype NHS team in Tameside, which is made up of nurses and doctors, are speaking with people via video calls as part of an integrated service initiative to help older patients get faster care, reduce avoidable ambulance call-outs and help people stay out of hospital.
“Putting every person’s individual care needs at the centre of joined-up services, supported by smart technology, is the heart of the long-term plan”
The team take around 8,000 calls a year from community staff, care home staff and wardens working in sheltered accommodation, who are seeking expert support for their residents. Their work is currently being trumpeted by government arms’-length body NHS England.
According to NHS England, the Skype service has meant that, over the past two years, 3,000 visits to A&E have been prevented and 2,000 GP appointments have been freed up.
By dealing with problems over Skype, older people are able to receive the right support in their own home and without the sometimes-distressing trip to an emergency department, NHS England noted in a statement.
One nurse who takes calls in the digital centre at Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust said that extending the Skype service to housing wardens had taken the scheme to the “next level”, as it meant nurses were also able to help with issues in sheltered accommodation such as falls.
Registered nurse, Peter Grace, said: “By setting up a direct link between services and the doctors and nurses at the hospital’s digital health team, we were able to offer guidance, advice and reassurance as well as being able to see the patient on Skype.”
“This reduces the need for people to attend the hospital but they are still able to access expert advice in a timely manner”
Tameside has integrated its combined £1bn NHS and local council budget over the last three years, as part of Greater Manchester’s devolved health and care approach, breaking down organisational barriers to develop solutions to health and social care issues more easily.
Mr Grace added: “Extending this to housing wardens, working with the council, has taken the project to the next level as now we can also help with issues in sheltered accommodation such as falls.”
The scheme in Tameside comes under a programme of integrated services being rolled-out across the country as part of the NHS Long Term Plan, with smart use of technology enabling quicker, more personal care delivered as efficiently as possible.
Across the country, 14 areas have Integrated Care Systems (ICS) which join up NHS and local government services simplifying systems between GPs, hospitals, councils and charities.
NHS England medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, said: “Putting every person’s individual care needs at the centre of joined-up services, supported by smart technology, is the heart of our long-term plan for the NHS.
“What matters most to every patient and their family is that they get the right treatment, at the right time, so integrating services – across communities and between councils, carers and hospitals – is not only good for the people we care for but a more efficient use of NHS resources,” he added.
The Tameside and Glossop Care Together integrated system includes NHS Tameside and Glossop CCG, Tameside Council, and Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, and also works closely with the voluntary sector and charities.
Chief operating officer at Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust, Trish Cavanagh, said: “The strategic plans we have developed are aimed at improving access to care for people and looking to provide care in more innovative ways – including using technology to support this.
“In some circumstances this reduces the need for people to attend the hospital but they are still able to access expert advice in a timely manner,” she added.
Chief officer of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, Jon Rouse, said: “Tameside’s pioneering work is an example of what happens when you bring together teams from the NHS, local authorities and care home providers and give them the freedom and resources to develop new ways of doing things.
“Greater Manchester has a long history of collaboration between the 10 council areas,” he said. ”It is that focus on working across organisational boundaries to best serve the needs of ordinary people that will help them to live independently as long as possible and receive care when they need it.”