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Councillors welcome collaborative work

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Devon councillors are to undertake a fact-finding mission to get a better understanding of why so many people remain in hospital when there’s no clinical reason for them to be there.

The invitation to visit Devon hospitals, made by senior health and adult social care officers to members of the council’s new Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, was welcomed by committee chairman Cllr Sara Randall Johnson.

It follows announcement of significant investment in services that will help older people in Devon regain their independence after NHS treatment.

New money, from the Better Care Fund, will see investment totalling £30.34million over the next three years, in a range of services designed to reduce pressure on NHS hospital services.

A detailed programme of how the money will be spent locally has yet to be agreed, but broadly it means big investment in services that prevent the need for hospital admission as well as support to improve the timely discharge from hospital of people who don’t need to be there.

A report to the Scrutiny Committee says: “Inappropriate admissions and unnecessarily long periods in hospital can be harmful, for older people in particular. The longer people remain in hospital, the harder it is for them to regain their independence and return home and the more likely they are to be re-admitted.”​

The report highlights the increasing incidence of dementia, and that more than 45 percent of the hospital beds in Devon are occupied by people with reported dementia who are medically fit to leave but have not been discharged.

The report adds: “If we help people identify their strengths and what really matters to them, and link them in with appropriate support when needed, there is potential to support people to remain independent, less reliant on care and less likely to have inappropriate admission to hospital or care homes or to need significant levels of care and support throughout their lifetime.”

Tim Golby, Devon County Council’s head of adult social care commissioning, told the xommittee: “This money is to be very much welcomed. It is new money and we have the opportunity and flexibility to use it to redesign support, and to do things differently. There are large numbers of people in hospital wards that shouldn’t be there and we owe it to them to do something about it.”

Committee members agreed that they want to retain oversight as to how Better Care Fund money will be used. The committee will form a dedicated Task Group to look into the matter, and on its agenda plans visits to a number of hospitals and community-based services to help members understand the process between hospital admissions, hospital discharge and people returning home.

Dr Sonja Manton, director of strategy for NEW Devon and South Devon and Torbay CCGs, said: “This is a big step forward in providing truly joined-up care across health and social care in Devon. I look forward to visiting a number of services in our area in the near future to look at how we plan the most effective use of this funding in a way that it makes a real difference for our population.”

Cllr Sara Randall Johnson, chairman of the Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee, said: “We welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively with health and social care partners to see that monies from the Better Care Fund are used to best effect.

“This is a vital piece of work that will help influence the way that people are supported, and that ultimately can help people remain independent, reducing the numbers of avoidable admissions and cut the numbers of delayed transfers from hospital.”