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A pioneering partnership project is helping to deliver faster, more joined-up care for the frail, the elderly and people with long-term health problems in the Weymouth area.
A host of different health and social care providers have come together to form the Weymouth and Portland Integrated Care Hub, which promotes closer working to deliver the right support to people at the right time – and as close to home as possible.
Since its launch in November, the hub has helped more than 500 local residents, and similar arrangements could now be rolled out across the rest of the county. Its success will be celebrated when South Dorset MP Richard Drax formally opens the facility on Friday (4 March).
The hub was established by Dorset Healthcare, in partnership with NHS Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), local GPs, Dorset County Council, Dorset County Hospital and the South Western Ambulance Trust. Based at Westhaven Hospital, it co-ordinates the work of different care professionals – including GPs, district nurses, mental health workers, community rehabilitation teams and social workers – to provide support for people struggling to manage at home or who have recently been discharged from hospital.
Open seven days a week, the hub has three health and social care co-ordinators who take referral calls about patients from GPs, the county council’s adult social care team, Dorset County Hospital and other agencies.
They help to assess what kind of care is required, and – liaising with duty professionals based at the hub – ensure the right support is provided as quickly as possible, in a co-ordinated way. Staff from the various partner agencies also meet every day for a “virtual ward round” to discuss on-going cases and ensure patients’ wider needs are met – not just the problem which triggered the initial referral.
Helen Persey, Dorset HealthCare’s locality manager for Weymouth and Portland, said:
“The hub has exceeded all expectations. Teams are now working closely together to ensure that the physical health, mental health and social care needs of our patients are at the centre of everything we do. There are no ‘hand-offs’, and also much less duplication, with one phone number to access a range of services.
“The hub has definitely made a huge difference to our patients. Early indications are that it is impacting the number of people admitted to hospital, and also the length of hospital stays, meaning people receive the care they need closer to home.”
Local GP Dr Rachael Stow said:
“I have seen huge changes in the ease of access to community services as a result of the hub. Now I make one phone call and a friendly health and social care co-ordinator listens to my needs and ensures an appropriate rapid response when needed, as well as arranging more routine aspects of care. This is ‘joined-up care’ working really well and tailored to our local population’s needs. My frail patients have also benefitted from the ‘virtual ward’ – whereas before, hospital admission would have been the only option, they can now be safely managed at home.”
Dr Karen Kirkham, Assistant Clinical Chair with NHS Dorset CCG, added:
“The NHS needs to change if it is to be able to continue delivering high quality services for local people in the future. The Weymouth and Portland Integrated Care Hub is a great example of how we can do this – integrating services for the benefit of the patient.
“Working in this way to deliver care closer to home also helps alleviate the pressure felt in other parts of the health and care system, making them more available to the people who need them most.”
Mr Drax will visit the hub between 12.30pm and 2pm on Friday, alongside representatives from the various partner agencies, local hospital League of Friends members, and patient/carer group members.