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According to new plans unveiled by the NHS, expert rapid response teams will be on hand within two hours to help support older people to remain well at home and avoid preventable hospital admissions.

Beginning in April, local health service and council teams will begin the roll out of Urgent Community Response teams as part of the NHS’ Long Term Plan to support England’s ageing population and those with complex needs.

It is also part of the Health Service’s plans to provide more joined-up care between the health and social care sectors to provide more effective care to individuals.

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The teams will give people fast access to a range of qualified professionals who can address both their health and social care needs, including physiotherapy and occupational therapy, medication prescribing and reviews, and help with staying well-fed and hydrated.

Backed by £14 million of investment, seven ‘accelerator’ sites will be the first to deliver the new standards for care, working together to standardise how urgent community services will be measured and delivered consistently across the country.

Joining up providers of community health services, NHS commissioners, councils and adult social care teams, and 111 and ambulance services, the seven sites are:

  • Warrington Together (Cheshire and Merseyside STP);
  • West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership (Kirklees);
  • Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland system;
  • Cornwall system;
  • Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire system;
  • South East London system; and
  • Norfolk and Waveney system

Older people and adults with complex health needs who have a very urgent care need, including a risk of being hospitalised, will be able to access a response from a team of skilled professionals within two hours, to provide the care they need to remain independent.

A two-day standard will also apply for teams to put in place tailored packages of intermediate care, or reablement services, for individuals in their own homes, with the aim of restoring independence and confidence after a hospital stay.

The urgent response standards are part of a range of commitments – including enhanced NHS support to care homes – which local health and care leaders will be rolling out over the next few years to help keep older people well at home and reduce pressure on hospital services.

NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens said: “The NHS working hand in glove in the community with council-funded social care services can be the difference between an older person or someone with long-term health needs spending a week or a month on a ward – or getting the right help early so they don’t need to go to hospital in the first place.

“That’s why as part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS we are putting community services front and centre, and backing them with a growing share of the NHS budget – and putting in place these new standards will give people and their families peace of mind about what they can expect from their local services when they need help most.”

Until now, there had been no expectations or strategy as to how social care services are implemented across England, which has led to wide variation in how the services are managed and delivered in different parts of the country.

Currently, no part of the country is consistently delivering community urgent care services 365 days a year in line with the NHS’ new national standards – meaning that all areas are expected to see a significant improvement in the offer to local people.

The seven NHS teams will begin working with their local authority counterparts on developing the services and recruiting staff from April, with the ambition that at least three areas will be fully up and running by next winter.

Further areas across England will receive extra funding to begin working to the new standards from 2021, with every part of the country covered by April 2023. This will be supported by an additional £4.5 billion a year for primary care and community services by 2023/24.

Shifting more care out of hospital and into the community is the first of five major improvements in how the changing health needs of the country will be met over the coming decade to be set out in the NHS Long Term Plan last year.

Jon Wilson, Director of Adult and Communities, Leicestershire County Council, said: “We are very excited locally about the opportunity that this investment gives us to bring together NHS and social care services to deliver integrated personalised care for people.  Our partnership work aims to enable people to return home from hospital as soon as they can and to stay at home avoiding an admission to hospital, wherever possible.

“By providing a single point of access into health and care service for people who may be experiencing a crisis, or require additional care quickly, can vastly improve their outcomes and helps to support their families.”

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