Event launches ground-breaking digital scheme for local care homes

  • 23 August 2019


St Monica Trust

An event yesterday celebrated the launch of an innovative new technology project which will see care homes joining the Connecting Care Partnership, alongside three hospitals, all GPs and 24 other health and care organisations.

Connecting Care is one of the most advanced digital care records in the country and is used for sharing information in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. It allows instant, secure access to up-to-date health and social care records for professionals involved in care.

Social care and NHS staff gathered with care home providers and patient expert representatives at the St Monica Trust Retirement Village in Westbury-on-Trym to find out more about the new scheme, which has been made possible thanks to a successful application for NHS Digital’s ‘Social Care Digital Pathfinders’ funding by South Gloucestershire Council.

The project is part of collaborative work between South Gloucestershire Council, Bristol City Council, North Somerset Council, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the Connecting Care Partnership and care homes. It aims to enable authorised personnel in care homes for elderly people to access and contribute to local health and care records.

Service improvement facilitator for care sector development, Harriet Soderberg, who works across health and social care and leads the project, explains more: 

Staff working in local care homes, hospitals and other health and social care settings do a fantastic job of providing the highest level of care to elderly people. However, transferring people between services can be difficult when the right information is not available at the right time. This can delay treatment and make it challenging to provide the individual care which each person deserves.

Connecting Care takes information from GP practices, hospital departments, community services, mental health trusts, out of hours services and Local Authorities across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire and displays it in a shared record. Bringing care homes into this partnership is ground-breaking. It will mean care home residents won’t have to tell their story more than once because the professionals who are most involved in their day-to-day care, their care home staff, will be able to easily share the most important, up-to-date information about their needs and preferences with other care professionals.

The information shared can include things like current medications, notes on what makes someone anxious and which name a person prefers to be called which allows care professionals in other settings, who may not have met the person before, to treat an individual, not a condition. This is especially important for people who have an injury or illness that makes communicating difficult and can really help decrease the stress involved in having to attend a different health or care setting, like hospital.

Connecting Care is a fantastic opportunity for us to provide joined-up care to the people that need it most and gives staff the right tools to provide the best care. The project represents the very best of what can be achieved when we work together and could have major implications for the care system throughout the UK.

South Gloucestershire Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult and Public Health Cllr Ben Stokes said:

South Gloucestershire Council is pleased to be playing the lead role across Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire in bidding to deliver this project. Its aim is to extend the existing and highly regarded Connecting Care system into care homes, making it simpler and quicker for heath and care practitioners to access the information they need.

This will make better use of health and care practitioners’ time whilst also reducing errors and safeguarding risks during transfers of care between a hospital and a care home. It will also lead to faster assessments in hospital and a reduced length of stay so that people are in hospital for as long as they need but not longer than they should.

Improved systems for communication between health and social care settings support a more person-centred care model and means that people will not need to repeat their story.

I am delighted that care homes have come forward to work with us on this important project. Care Homes are a key partner in the Health and Social care system and we look forward to working with them to improve how we work together to care for their current and future residents.

Councillor Helen Holland, Bristol City Council’s Cabinet member for adult social care, said:

This is a great initiative, because sometimes when people leave hospital for a care home, there isn’t always sufficient information about them to help the home ensure that they settle in quickly and have continuity of care.

To have this process speeded up with better use of technology is a great step forward. Bristol City Council is pleased to have the opportunity to be part of this innovative project, which we hope will get some national recognition.

Cllr Mike Bell, North Somerset Council’s executive member with responsibility for adult social care, said: 

We are delighted that this digital partnership bid was successful. The investment in the care home sector is also welcomed, as is the opportunity to enhance information available to health and social care staff professionals involved in hospital transfers. The pilot, which includes some North Somerset care homes, will ensure that local residents of these care homes will experience safer and less stressful experiences when being admitted or discharged from hospital. We are optimistic that the pilot will demonstrate the value in a wider rollout across the whole of the care home sector.

North Bristol NHS Trust integrated discharge service lead, Helen Mee, said: 

The ability to instantly access a care record with more information about our patient will allow us to make significant improvements to our setting of goals. It will help with our work to establishing where individual patients need to go when they leave hospital and how they want to be cared for when they’re with us. It will help us to provide the person centred care we strive to achieve.

Care home providers from throughout Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire left feedback on the Connecting Care programme following the event:

Having access to data on Connecting Care would enable us to provide efficient and person-centred care, with free time to be with residents.

The project provides an exciting opportunity to really give personalised, joined up care with care homes as a valuable partner.

Developing an agreed dataset will have a huge impact and will help us to save time and better use our resources to help residents. As care home providers, it feels like we are equal partners in this project.

During the first phase of this exciting project, representatives from 20 care homes are working with other users of Connecting Care to agree a standardised data set for information that needs to be shared with care homes. Electronic forms, based on those included in the innovative Red Bag Scheme, are being co-designed to allow care homes to contribute important information to the shared record.

The next steps for the project will see the team applying for a further £300,000 funding in October, which would allow us to go live in the first 30 care homes in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.