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The NHS has launched a new guide aimed at allied health professionals on how they can support and improve the health and well-being of residents in care homes, helping reduce the pressure on hospitals.

It builds on the NHS’ 2016 framework for enhanced health in care homes (EHCH) to ensure care home residents’ needs are properly assessed and met, and how allied health professionals can support the implementation and roll-out of this framework.

Entitled ‘Quick Guide: allied health professionals enhancing health for people in care homes’, it also builds on the NHS Long Term Plan which includes a commitment to upgrade NHS support to all care home residents, with roll-out of the ECHC model by 2023/24.

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The guide is intended for health and care staff who want to speed up the process of improving care in homes. This includes primary care teams, care home staff, commissioners, third sector organisations, and allied health professionals and the professional bodies that represent them.

Using case studies, the guide underlines how allied health professionals can support personalised care, independence, and reduce avoidable admission to urgent care services.

According to the guide, allied health professionals can help support care home residents in the following areas: enhanced primary care support; nutrition and hydration; rehabilitation and reablement; end of life and dementia care; workforce; and digital and technology.

Commenting on the new guide, Julia Scott, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, said: “Occupational therapists alongside other Allied Health Professionals play a key role in making sure residents of care homes receive the best possible care, and the Royal College advised on some of the key areas of the guide.

“Our recent ‘Care Homes and Equipment’ guide assists occupational therapists with helping to implement the timely provision of equipment and improve the quality of life for residents.

“Improving healthcare in care homes is a vital part of the NHS Long Term Plan and the new guide focuses on the best practice of nutrition and hydration, end of life and dementia care and rehabilitation and reablement. These are areas where occupational therapists play an important role.”

The guide outlines a number of key areas to help improve the ECHC framework, which are:

1. Consider multi-professional approaches to support for care homes with high levels of demand on NHS services

The guide says that allied health professionals can support a wide range of issues that can lead to hospitalisation and primary care referral including malnutrition, dysphagia, falls and palliative care leading to reductions in demand.

2. Review ease of access to allied health profession services

This area looks at supporting care homes to understand which allied health professional service they need, how to refer their residents and enable care homes to make referrals without intervention from primary care colleagues.

3. Understand equity of access for people living in care homes

There is variation in access criteria for care home residents compared to people living in their own homes, notes the guide. This leads to people in care homes not always being able to access timely allied health profession services.

Health and social care commissioners and providers are encouraged to review local commissioning arrangements and access to ensure clarity of responsibility and where referral thresholds exist, that these are appropriate.

4. Understand ease of access to allied health profession services that cannot be delivered in the care home

Attendance at hospital or outpatient settings can be unsettling for care home residents. It also creates pressure for care homes in providing an escort for their resident. In light of this, the guide prompts allied health profession provider services to review their processes for care home residents to ensure when attendance is necessary, disruption is minimised.

5. Develop whole home approaches to commissioning

The document highlights a variety of examples of whole home approaches focussed on providing education and training in addition to one–to-one interventions.

6. Support care homes to take structured approaches to common health issues to support demand management

Through the integration of activities and interventions into the daily routines of care home residents, care homes can reduce the need for professional intervention, says the guide. It is important for those working in care homes to consider how best to maintain a resident’s physical function.

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