A pilot scheme that supported patients and staff at seven Welsh Emergency Departments this winter has been extended into the summer.

First published:
21 March 2019
Last updated:

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Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, today also announced the service, which helps patients resettle following an Emergency Department visit and reduces the non-medical work burden on staff, will be expanded at Moriston Hospital in Swansea.

The Welsh Government and NHS Wales pilot, delivered by British Red Cross staff and volunteers, has helped more than 25,000 patients since December 2018.

Red Cross staff and volunteers have provided non-medical support, tailored to individuals and focussed on their practical and emotional needs, to help people leave hospital more quickly and with more confidence so NHS staff can focus on clinical work. This included collecting medication and test results and accompanying patients to other hospital departments. Red Cross staff have also helped by providing transport and resettling people in their homes following a visit to an Emergency Department.

Following the initial success of the scheme, the Minister has approved funding for another 6 months from April to September 2019 and for an extension of an existing service at Moriston Hospital.

Mr Gething said:

“I am very pleased to announce we will be extending this pilot to help us understand whether an assisted discharge service from Emergency Departments would add benefit all year round.

“The Red Cross have been providing help to take pressure off NHS staff in our busy Emergency Departments all winter. They have been very well received by frontline staff and patients. The service has been especially helpful for people who are socially isolated, those at greater risk from harm because of substance misuse and for people who have recently suffered bereavement. 

“We will be commencing a competitive tender process as soon as possible to enable other third sector organisations to have an opportunity to deliver the service, with one eye on planning for autumn and winter 2019/20.”

Dr Jo Mower, National Clinical Director for Unscheduled Care, said:

“The National Programme for Unscheduled Care ‘Emergency Department assisted discharge service’ has been invaluable since its introduction, not least in supporting clinicians and patients in my own department over the winter months. 

I have observed first hand how the service can take pressure off medical and nursing staff and support vulnerable people and look forward to evolving the service over the coming months as we plan for winter 2019/20.”

Kate Griffiths, director of independent living and crisis response for the Red Cross in Wales said:

“The difference made through simple, kind acts cannot be underestimated, for example listening to someone’s concerns as they prepare to leave hospital, helping them get the shopping in when they get home – Red Cross staff and volunteers are there for reassurance and support, empowering people to take their first steps on the road back to independence.

“We believe the role of the voluntary sector is key in helping health and care services to support patients, relieving pressure on the system and giving peace of mind to doctors and nursing staff that patients are being cared for as they move between home and hospital. We’re really pleased that the success of our winter pressures services means there will be more opportunities for the voluntary sector to provide this essential support.”