Sutton Council awarded £300,000 for digital version of successful scheme to aid patients’ recovery

Published Wednesday, 12th February 2020

Sutton Council has been awarded over £300,000 to extend the digital version of the hugely successful red bag scheme to help people living in care.

Sutton Council has been awarded over £300,000 by NHS Digital to extend the digital version of a scheme to help people living in care homes get more timely care and be discharged quicker after going into hospital in an emergency.

The funding for Sutton Council, Epsom and St Helier Hospitals NHS Trust and the South West London Health and Care Partnership will be used to roll out the electronic equivalent of their hugely successful red bag scheme.

The existing red bag initiative, which will continue alongside the digital work, sees essentials like a list of medical and personal information and items such as dentures, glasses, hearing aids and a change of clothes packed into a red bag. It proved so successful that it was adopted nationally.

Red bags are given to ambulance crews and travel with care home residents to hospital where they are handed to the A&E team.

Under the pilot, the digitalisation and electronic transfer of people’s records was done securely from two care homes to Epsom and St Helier hospitals, instead of using paper records. This meant that hospital staff had faster access to reliable information about patients. Also - crucially - patients spent less time in hospital and care home workers spent less time working on administration, meaning more time to care for our residents.

The Council, NHS trust and wider health and care system plan to use the NHS Digital grant to extend the recent small-scale trial of their e-red bag scheme to other care homes across Sutton and Merton, and later in the year to the other areas in south west London. The Council will be working with NHS colleagues to create a set of digital standards and ‘how to’ guides, so that the scheme can eventually be used nationally.

Councillor Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council and Chair of its Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “We’re extremely pleased that the importance and benefits of the Digital Red Bag have been recognised.

“Our Red Bag project has already delivered an estimated £167,000 of savings per year to the NHS in Sutton. It also means that our residents now receive better, safer, more integrated care from their care homes and health services. It has enabled them to spend less time in hospital and reduced some of the stressful elements previously involved in hospital stays.

“Sutton Council and local NHS and voluntary sector partners recently signed the World Health Organisation’s pledge to make Sutton Age-Friendly, and the implementing the Digital Red Bag is a clear example of how we are working towards this goal’

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust Joint Clinical Lead for the project Jeremy Nugent said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to continue building on a simple idea that has made a big difference and it’s a ringing endorsement of our joined-up approach to improving care and support for older and vulnerable people.

“We’re incredibly proud that Sutton’s original red bag scheme was so beneficial that it was adopted nationally and I have no doubt that this digital version will be equally successful.

“Not only will it help care home residents have an even smoother transfer to and from hospital, it will quickly give our staff the personal and clinical information they need to make better informed decisions about the best care for their patients.”

Further information:

NHS Digital's announcment about funding for adult social care projects (11 February 2020)