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Maidstone council's Helping You Home scheme helps discharge 618 patients from hospital in one year

A team which helps prepare the homes of patients so they can be discharged from hospital quicker has seen a 22% increase in use over the past year.

Helping You Home was set up by Maidstone council in 2017 to address bed-blocking issues at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW).

Some of the integrated discharge team at Maidstone Hospital. Picture: Maidstone Borough Council
Some of the integrated discharge team at Maidstone Hospital. Picture: Maidstone Borough Council

During the last year, 618 residents have left hospital earlier than they would have or admission has been avoided all together thanks to the scheme.

The team works alongside organisations such as Involve Kent and Wynsdale Waste Management to carry out safety checks, repairs and cleaning of people's properties.

'Micro living areas' are often created, where all essentials such as a bed, table and clothing is moved into one room, normally downstairs, so the resident can live as comfortably and easily as possible.

Key boxes are often fitted and codes logged by the team, so carers and emergency services can easily enter the property without someone having to come to the door if they have mobility issues - 165 have been fitted in the last year.

And hospital beds can be delivered, with furniture moved to accommodate the structure.

Housing and inclusion team manager, Sarah Ward, says it's often over 65s who get referred to the team, with 506 of the 618 helped this past year in this age bracket, and around 50% of them live alone.

Helping You Home team leader, Sarah Ward
Helping You Home team leader, Sarah Ward

One such person was a single patient living alone in her family home. They were sleeping on the sofa, with no hot water, and piles of stuff everywhere.

"This is the extreme side - they couldn't even get into their room. So we provided the patient with temporary accommodation which allowed us to move a lot of the stuff, getting rid of things like broken white goods and then make a micro living area so everything was convenient for them when they returned home," said Ms Ward.

The 32-year-old added: "It's a fantastically rewarding job - it's so nice to help people get home from hospital."

Helping You Home normally has a 24 to 48-hour turnaround to work to.

"It's a really quick service and we have to work at the speed the hospitals need us to. We wouldn't be able to do it that fast without our handyman. Several organisations working together is vital for making this initiative work," said Ms Ward.

As well as being stations at MTW's two main hospitals and building a good working relationship with staff there, the team has also recently started working with GPs, which Ms Ward believes may have caused the annual increase in referrals.

Contrary to what may be assumed, Ms Ward has not noticed "a massive spike" in referrals during the pandemic but staff have taken appropriate measures such as not being stationed in hospitals for now and using PPE when needed.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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