A partnership between health services and a charity is aiming to reduce demand on A&E services in North Staffordshire.
An 18-month study revealed that a group of 66 people had regularly attended A&E, at an estimated cost to the local NHS of £1.2 million.
Now a partnership between health services and charity is helping to support some of the region’s most vulnerable patients and reduce the demand for accident and emergency services.
The High Volume User (HVU) service, based at Harplands Hospital, works with patients who have been associated with persistent A&E attendances and non-elective admissions, offering help and pointing them in the direction of more appropriate health and social care.
The HVU service, launched in April, has been working with these patients to understand their needs and offer practical help - and is estimated to have already saved health services more than £100,000.
Funded by North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Clinical Commissioning Groups, the HVU service is run by Cath Walasiewicz, Co-ordinator, North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust (NSCHT) and Jennie Washington, Service Co-ordinator, British Red Cross (High Volume User Pilot).
Cath said: “Jennie and I had worked in similar A&E post-discharge roles previously. We recognised that we need to work with patients to point them in the right direction for their physical and mental health needs, and also work with them on social issues such as housing and benefits which could often be at the root of their problems.
“By educating our patients and working in partnership with GP surgeries, A&E, West Midlands Ambulance Service, out-of-hours services and local authorities we can give them better options and encourage them to not use A&E or ambulances as their default service.
“When patients feel there is a closed door they can default to attending A&E, when a 10-minute chat with somebody who can address the underlying problem can make all the difference.”
Jennie said: “We can go to their homes, talk to them, their family and carers and by being a multi-agency team we can look at it from all sides and work with health services, the police, housing and social care. I work for the Red Cross and sometimes this connection can help because people recognise that I’m not the police or the authorities.
“Our patients are such a varied group of people - no two have the same needs. But Cath has a health background and I am voluntary sector – we have different tools and different support which we can bring together.”
The pair’s work has included supporting vulnerable patients who found it difficult to get GP appointments, and helping someone with unsuitable housing which was affecting their health to move.