Proposals to recruit extra nurses, physios and occupational therapists to care for more people in the community and help them avoid unnecessary hospital stays have been developed by health bosses in South Lakeland.
Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) are asking local people to give their views on the proposals which would see changes to how care is given to adults who need more support than can currently be provided by GPs or district nurses at home, but don’t need to stay on an acute hospital ward.
Since 2008, the 28 community beds on the Langdale Unit at Westmorland General Hospital have been mainly used for older people who needed this kind of nurse-led treatment, perhaps after a fall, when recovering after surgery, or at the end of their lives.
However, feedback from healthcare professionals, patients and evidence from organisations like the British Geriatrics Society is that hospital isn’t always the right place for people to recover and regain their independence. This is particularly the case for older people who can lose mobility and independence during a stay in a hospital bed.
The CCG is therefore proposing to reinvest the £3m per year cost of running the Langdale Unit into recruiting 36 additional nurses, physios and occupational therapists in the community. This would mean more community nursing staff and rapid response and frailty services to enable older people to remain at or close to their homes and communities and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.
The proposals would include commissioning care homes and some community accommodation for people if home isn’t the right place for them.
Altogether, the proposed changes would make it possible to care for around 3,300 South Lakeland residents a year, more than seven times the number of people who use the Langdale Unit over the same period.
Dr William Lumb, local GP and Clinical Director for Community Care at UHMBT, said: “I helped to set up the community beds facility at the Langdale Unit 14 years ago. Since then, many things have changed in healthcare and it’s time for us to think carefully about whether community beds are the right way to care for a growing elderly population.
“Independent, expert reviews have shown that, in hospital, older people can begin to lose mobility and the ability to look after themselves. The sooner we can get them back to the familiarity of home – or better still avoid hospital admission in the first place – the better their recovery.”
The CCG and the hospital Trust are keen to emphasise that no decisions have yet been made on how this level of care will be delivered in the future.
Dr Lumb added: “We have put together four models for how care could be delivered in future. One of which – offering a blend of care in the community and beds in care homes – is our preferred option because we feel it best fits with what local people and clinicians have told us and is considered best practice in caring for older people.
“But no decision has been made and we now need local people and organisations to share their views on the four options, as well as any new ideas. The decision will be based on the best way of delivering care for the unique population and geography of South Lakeland.”
The Langdale Unit was temporarily closed in July 2020 so Westmorland General Hospital could become a dedicated site for elective surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary closure meant that Langdale Unit staff were redeployed in the community to deliver more nursing and therapy care in people’s homes. This was an opportunity to trial new ways of working which the preferred model of care would build on further.
If they were not used for community beds, the Langdale Unit would be repurposed to create more space for the kind of services that can only be delivered in a hospital, such as beds for people immediately after they have an operation.