Health and care services

Home sweet home

The Red Cross is working in partnership with Northern Ireland’s Health Trusts to improve patients’ experience of being discharged from hospital.

Imagine the scenario … you’ve had a stay in hospital and now it’s time to go home. Your nearest and dearest will drive you home and stay with you for as long as it takes.

For now, it’s the simple things you once took for granted. A key to open the front door. Help up the steps. Making sure the electricity and heating is on. They’re also there to help you get out of bed. To help you get washed and dressed. And to help make your meals.

Unfortunately, it’s a very different story for many people. They find they’ve very little support around them and fret constantly about not being able to cope. They fear losing their independence, worry about their long-term health, and experience anxiety about follow-up care. How will they even be able to attend their follow up appointments when the hospital is so far away and they can’t drive?

Life Beyond the Ward

The Red Cross’ new ‘Life Beyond the Ward’ research shines a light on the systemic barriers which mean that for many patients the journey home from hospital is a shock to the system rather than a phased and adequately supported process of transition. Our report suggests simple and cost-effective changes that could make the entire experience safer, kinder and more effective.

What changes would we like to see?

• increased resources for community services to help people recover successfully following discharge from hospital;

• pre-discharge checks on patients’ home environment and support needs;

• greater input from the community and voluntary sector to improve the patient experience and relieve pressure on the NHS.

The Red Cross’ unique role

In 2017, the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust harnessed Red Cross expertise with the introduction of the very first hospital discharge service in Northern Ireland. Piloted at the Ulster Hospital, it has been hugely successful.

Fiona MacLeod, Red Cross’ Director for Independent Living and Crisis Response services says; “We’ve been delighted with how the entire clinical team at the Ulster worked so generously with us to get this innovative new service up and running effectively. Our charitable mission is all about providing highly professional auxiliary support to the statutory sector at times of particular pressure or during emergencies; it’s what we do all over the world, we find an area where we can make a humanitarian difference to vulnerable people. As the British Red Cross enters its 150th anniversary year we look forward to establishing many more service partnerships.”

Belfast Trust and Northern Trust have recently followed South Eastern’s pioneering approach with assisted discharge schemes launching in the Royal Victoria, Mater, Antrim and Causeway hospitals. Red Cross staff and volunteers are embedded in the hospital discharge lounges where they work closely with nursing staff and the bed flow management team to ensure a seamless discharge process for patients. They then offer up to six weeks of support to improve resilience, wellbeing and independence at home. By empowering individuals and encouraging self-care through behaviour change, highly trained Red Cross staff and volunteers can reduce further dependence on health and social care and provide better outcomes for the most vulnerable.

Want to find out more?

Read Home to the Unknown: or contact Paula Powell for further details:

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