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Bridging the gap at Southend

08 November 2018

It has been widely acknowledged that the winter of 2017/18 saw the NHS in England experience a huge surge in demand.

Southend, like hospitals across the country, has put plans in place to help manage the rise in demand experienced during this time of year to ensure patient safety and high quality of care is maintained. Plans are in place to improve bed capacity and patient flow including the safe discharge of patients.

Central to discharge and patient flow at Southend is this year's Hospital Heroes Working Together award winners, the Bridge the Gap team (BTG). Run by the Discharge Team and consisting of four internally trained health care assistants (HCAs), this small team plays a crucial role in acting as a bridging service between the hospital and social care, ensuring patients can be safely discharged into the community.

Kellie-Jo Hill, Head of discharge services, said: "If a care agency hasn't got the capacity to start a care package on a particular day, BTG can take that patient home and will provide up to four calls a day until social services have sourced an agency and can take over the care. It's a really short term service to improve flow across the hospital, to get the patient where they should be, in the right place at the right time."

BTG started off as a small pilot scheme three years ago and it soon became apparent how successful it was with a reduction in the delay of transfer of care. From there BTG became a permanent and central component of the Discharge Team.

BTG liaise daily with social care teams at both Essex County Council and Southend Borough Council, to discharge between 5-6 patients per day. The four HCAs travel all over Essex - from Canvey to Great Wakering - to support patients until the council put their own care plans in place.

Charmaine Duce, Discharge Manager, said: "It's about improving the patient journey and them being in the right place. Some families worry that their loved one will be sent home ill prepared with no food in the cupboards but BTG will take care of this. We will get the shopping, we will put the heating and lights on, feed the pets - whatever is needed."

The Discharge Team is also in the process of building a business case to expand the Bridge the Gap team and double daily discharges which will make a huge difference throughout the upcoming winter holiday period.

The Southend team is basing their business case on Basildon Hospital's model which is double the capacity of Southend. These plans will be submitted to NHS England and would align the services as Basildon, Southend and Broomfield move forward with plans for merger in April 2019.

Clare Burns, Director of Operations, Planned & Scheduled Care, said: "It's no exaggeration to say that the Bridge the Gap team kept the hospital safe throughout winter by doubling the amount of patients they safely discharged home or into the community.

"This resulted in more beds being available for additional unwell patients to be admitted."

At the close of September, the Bridge the Gap team deservedly won the Working Together category at this year's Hospital Heroes Awards. The team were delighted with their win and hope it helps to raise their profile across the Trust as they look to expand their services and play a crucial role this winter and beyond.

Kellie-Jo added: "Winning the Working Together award was a very proud moment for our team as it was the culmination of extremely hard work and successful team working both internally and with the local councils. We want to raise our profile and this will hopefully help us do that as we look to expand and realign our services."

Bridge

(l-r) Cheryl Robinson (HCA), Sue Childs (HCA), Victoria Spivey (HCA), Mandy Witney (HCA), Kellie-Jo Hill and Charmaine Duce