Around 100 care professionals from across the region have come together in Newcastle to celebrate the work taking place in care homes throughout Newcastle and Gateshead.

The #CareHomesMatter event brought together clinicians, care deliverers and academics, who understand the complex needs of older people living with frailty, to celebrate the good work being done in the region and discuss the challenges faced by care home staff, residents and family members.

The event, which attracted experts in the field from NHS England North and NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG, underlined the importance of care home residents having the same access to quality services as those living in their own homes and also raised the profile of staff working in care homes, noting that they can be among the most experienced teams when it comes to the care of older people.

The speakers discussed how care professionals can share and spread examples of best practice, highlighting some of the latest models of care taking place in care homes throughout the UK. The event shared that by taking a more joined up approach to a patient’s journey, through the health and social care system, people can retain more of their independence and therefore receive a higher standard of overall care.

Leading the event, Lesley Bainbridge, Lead Nurse for the Care Home Vanguard Programme, NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG, said: “We know that care homes are crucial but challenging environments, because of patients’ complex needs. We’ve recognised that between hospitals and care homes the patient’s journey needs to be more joined up and the job of all care services should be to wrap themselves around the patient journey.

“Despite the often negative reports of care homes that we hear about in the media, this event is about highlighting the good work taking place throughout the region’s care sector. Many care home staff are highly experienced and it’s important for them to share their knowledge and skills. We need to bring care homes from the periphery, back into the system.”

Ruth Holt, Director of Nursing/Independent Care Sector Regional Lead, NHS England North, spoke about the challenge of collaboration within health and social care, suggesting that improved communication between hospitals and the care sector needed to take place for the benefit of the patient.

Ruth said: “With 10 days in hospital leading to the equivalent of 10 years of ageing on the muscles of people over 80, care homes really do matter. For many, hospital is not always the right setting.

“The care sector can offer a much more suitable alternative – allowing   residents to retain more of their independence – and when we think about solutions we must focus on the resident whose health and wellbeing we are trying to improve.”

#CareHomesMatter was organised by NHS Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in partnership with the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC).

Dr Dan Cowie, Clinical Director of Transformation, NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG, said: “We are passionate about the care of older people and believe that working collaboratively is one of the best things we can do to make a difference to the lives of residents and patients, their families and the people providing care for them; and we are committed to ensuring the independent care sector is universally recognised as a valuable part of the care system.”

Attendees to #CareHomesMatter were invited to take part in a range of interactive learning sessions, led by facilitators, to identify the key challenges and successes taking place in their individual care settings. The outcomes of these sessions will be compiled into a report which will be shared with attendees and key organisations.

Professor Julia Newton, AHSN NENC Medical Director and Professor of Ageing and Medicine at Newcastle University, said: “The AHSN NENC Frail Elderly programme aims to improve care for frail older people in our region, whether they are living in a care home or in the wider community.

“#CareHomesMatter provided an opportunity for this crucial section of the health and social care system to learn about new models of care and how to better collaborate with other areas of the system. This in turn supports the implementation of improvement and innovation initiatives, and the sharing of best practice.”

The AHSN NENC and NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG are working on a range of initiatives to improve the health, wellbeing and care of older people.

For more information about the AHSN NENC’s Frail Elderly programme, led by Dr Joanna Collerton, visit: http://www.ahsn-nenc.org.uk/programmes/elderly-care/ and for further information on the elderly care work undertaken by NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG visit: www.enhancedcare.org

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