What can housing do to ease the ever-increasing pressure on our National Health Service?
Kelly Webb, assistant director for health and housing needs at First Choice Homes Oldham, explains what the organisation’s hospital discharge service is doing to help.
Our hospitals are under ever-increasing pressure.
The situation is exacerbated because beds are being used by people who are medically fit for discharge but cannot return home.
Healthcare providers alone cannot tackle these challenges – they must be able to turn to and rely on partners to relieve the pressure.
Ensuring people live in safe and secure homes that meet their specific needs is one way to prevent ill health and unnecessary and expensive A&E visits or hospitalisations.
Housing providers have a huge role to play in keeping people living independently.
This includes supporting people out of hospital into their homes and preventing hospital admissions as a result of falls by making properties fit for purpose.
At First Choice Homes Oldham we’re committed to doing all we can to deliver non-clinical solutions and services to improve health in Oldham. We already provide a wide range of homes and services to deliver on this commitment.
The catalyst for this work has been the hospital discharge service. This is a partnership established by First Choice Homes Oldham, the Royal Oldham Hospital, Oldham Council, and Pennine Care Foundation.
Initially funded by First Choice Homes Oldham, the project sees a member of housing staff working in the hospital’s social work team to directly intervene in any housing issues that are stopping a person returning home.
More than 100 of the most problematic delayed hospitalisation cases were discharged in its first 12 months and the service is now being commissioned for a further 12 months, with funding from the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
Further services have now also been established, including housing options for older people (HOOP), founded by First Choice Homes Oldham and the CCG. It’shelped 126 older people in its first six months by providing better advice, housing and support options for those who are regularly turning to health services for non-clinical issues.
The project, which also involves national charity First Response, is allowing people to find more suitable accommodation that includes adaptations and appropriate care packages so they can continue to live independently. To date 26 people have also been rehoused to more suitable homes that better meet their needs.
Now, Royal Oldham Hospital has asked First Choice Homes Oldham and the CCG to fund and deliver an A&E to home service, where housing, health and care partners will provide community-based solutions for people who frequently attend A&E with non-clinical issues.
The CCG is also working with First Choice Homes Oldham to support high-risk groups, such as those over 75, who are home-owners or living in the private rented sector. The healthy homes scheme aims to keep people living in their homes and prevent unnecessary visits to health services by providing access to a range of support services. This includes adaptations, repairs, health and safety assessments, anti-fuel poverty measures, tailored support and care services.
These projects highlight the strategic role that housing services can play in helping people to live healthy and independent lives.
We will continue to work with our partners to pilot a series of low-risk, high-reward initiatives that can ease pressure on their services.
These projects are just the beginning of a new dawn for health services in Oldham with a range of collaborative projects in the pipeline.