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‘Red bags’ packing a difference for care home residents

14 June 2018

Health Care

The red bag scheme or ‘hospital transfer pathway’ is a small change having a big impact by personalising hospital care for care home residents in south east Essex.

This simple patient focused initiative will improve the ambulance service handover to the hospital and will also assist to reduce A&E assessment times for the patient.

When a care home resident becomes unwell and requires hospital care, care home staff will pack a red bag which will have been personalised for the individual and will consist of standardised paperwork about the residents' health care needs, a list of their medication, along with personal items, such as glasses, hearing aids, toiletries and day-of-discharge clothes and all will be transported to the hospital with the patient.

As a borough, Southend-on-Sea has three times the number of people living in care homes than the national average.  Due to the complex and long-term nature of the health issues of many care home residents, there are often frequent and sometimes sudden admissions to hospital.

Admissions and discharges involve input from several health and care organisations and all depends on good, robust communication and having the relevant information present.

Initially the scheme will be being rolled out to all care homes in Southend, followed by care homes in the Castle Point and Rochford area.

James Currell, General Manager for Medical Specialities at Southend University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: "This is a great example of how local health and social care services can work together in partnership to improve patient care.

"We know that it can be confusing and very stressful for care home residents when they need to be transferred to hospital, particularly in an emergency, but this simple patient centred initiative will enhance patients' experiences by ensuring a smoother transfer in and out of hospital.

"We also welcome the positive impact it will have for patient safety by allowing health care professionals to immediately identify the patient as a care home resident. It provides us with the information we need to provide individualised care, which is particularly important for patients with memory problems or longer term dementia. The Red Bag also makes it simpler to keep track of the patients' essential belongings and other items including personal information."

As vital patient information will be in one place and this will travel with the patient, it will save time at each stage of the patient journey. 

Discharge information will also be put into the red bag so when patients return to their care home, staff can ensure any advice given can be followed up straight away, instead of waiting to hear from the GP.

Ryan O'Shea, Senior Development Manager for Primary Care at NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group, said:"We are all very excited about the launch of the red bag scheme, as it has been shown to improve the quality of care provided across the system to care home residents.

"It is a valuable step forward in improving care for local care home residents; putting the patients' needs first, by enabling smoother transfers of care and therefore reducing any stress or anxiety for the patient which is a huge benefit.

"There has been partnership working with local care homes, our local authority and the hospital to develop the scheme and we all look forward to the benefits it will bring to individuals and the health system"

"The scheme has proved so successful in some parts of our region that it's been rolled out across the country with the help of a new quick guide published today.

"The guide aims to provide care homes, trusts, CCGs and ambulance services with practical tips on how to implement the scheme.

"A simple change, the scheme has shown to reduce hospital delays, help stop patients losing personal items and improve communication between care home and hospital staff."



Notes to editors:


            Locally (south east Essex)


  1. The Red Bag scheme in south east Essex has been achieved through partnership work between NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group, Southend University NHS Hospital Trust, East of England Ambulance Trust and south Essex care homes.


2          The Red Bag contains standardised but current information about the health and well-being of the resident, a list of medication needs, personal aids and belongings (such as glasses, hearing aids, clothes) and this stays with them from the time they leave the care home to go into hospital, until the time they return to the care home at the end of their hospital stay.

             Each red bag has a personalised serial number for                each care home resident to facilitate tracking of any                admissions or discharges and the red bag itself                      immediately identifies the patient as a care home                    resident.


3          For more information locally, please visit the Southend CCG website at www.southendccg.nhs.uk  or email us sccg.communications@nhs.net




4          The initiative was pioneered by Sutton Homes of Care, South London, in 2015. Sutton was subsequently chosen as one of six enhanced health in care homes vanguard areas as part of the 2016-17 New Care Models Programme.


5          Nationally, nearly 50% of Health and Wellbeing Boards report they have started the scheme in their area and 90% say they aim to roll it out next year.


6          Further information on the scheme can be found on                NHS England's website.