Red bag scheme to be rolled out nationally after success in Sutton

Red bag scheme

Published Tuesday, 26th June 2018

The simple initiative started three years ago in Sutton and now all areas of the country are being urged to adopt the scheme.

An innovative scheme for care home residents that started in Sutton three years ago has been so successful it is now being rolled out nationally.

The red bag scheme helps care home residents who are admitted to hospital and provides somewhere to put key paperwork, medication and personal items like glasses, slippers and dentures. The bag can then be handed to ambulance crews by carers and travel with patients to hospital where they are then handed to the doctor.

The simple initiative started three years ago in Sutton and now all areas of the country are being urged to adopt the scheme.

As well as giving reassurance to patients, the red bags provide hospital staff with quick, up-to-date information and medication requirements for the patient, reducing the time taken to make enquiries.

So far the initiative in Sutton has:

  • Reduced hospital stays by three to four days, saving £167,000 a year.

  • Stopped patients losing personal items such as dentures, glasses and hearing aids worth £290,000 in a year.

  • Improved communication between care home and hospital staff saving time, resources and duplication.

The scheme is an example of how the NHS is integrating care, working in partnership with the social care sector, to create a seamless pathway for patients so they only have to tell their story once.

Since starting in Sutton, the initiative has been taken up in other areas following its success. Around 50 per cent of Health and Wellbeing Boards report they have started the scheme in their area and 90 per cent say they have an aim to roll it out next year.

The scheme is just one NHS initiative taking place to make care more proactive in care homes; through the Enhanced Health in Care Homes Vanguard total bed days have dropped by 4.5 per cent  as opposed to an increase in areas without the scheme of 1.4 per cent.

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England National Medical Director, said: “This is an example of where a joined up approach is helping to improve patient care and speed up a stay in hospital for all the right reasons. Sometimes it’s the personal touch that makes a big difference to patients, especially if they’re elderly, and the red bag helps people feel reassured and more at home. Doing more of the obvious is key to improving all our experiences of care.”

Sarah Blow, Senior Responsible Officer for South West London Health and Care Partnership, said: “We’re incredibly proud of the work being done to improve the health of older people in Sutton by bringing together health and social care providers. Having seen the benefits to patients, we have already rolled out the red bag scheme in other boroughs in south west London, so we’re delighted that this will become a national scheme.”

Eothen Care Home in Sutton was the very first to use the red bag for one of its residents. Manager, Kim Kerwood, said: "The red bag is a simple idea that makes a big difference. On the day it was launched, one of ourresidents fell and we suspected that sadly he might have a fracture.“We got the red bag ready and completed the forms for the ambulance crew and hospital staff. The resident and red bag went off to hospital and to our delight two weeks later he returned home fit and well and, importantly, with the red bag complete with a discharge letter and medication. The scheme is a great step forward in the care we provide for our residents."