Speeding up the best in health and care, together

Transfer of Care: The ‘Red Bag’ Project in Care Homes

A high proportion of admissions and readmissions to hospitals are from residents in care homes. Care homes in South London have expressed a need for better information sharing and communication during transfer of care. Specifically changes to medication and care pathways post discharge were identified as areas for improvement. Similarly, ambulance and hospital staff highlight gaps in information about existing medical conditions and medication as impacting on good care during transfer and admission to hospital. The HIN has identified a pure spread and adoption opportunity to spread the Sutton Vanguard’s successful ‘Red Bag’ initiative to other South London Boroughs.

The “Red Bag*” is a simple initiative to help care home residents when they need to go to hospital in an emergency. The bag stays with the resident throughout their stay in hospital and contains:

  • Standardised information about the resident’s general health, any existing medical conditions and medication they are taking, as well as highlighting the current health concern which is easily accessible to ambulance and hospital staff. Includes ‘This is me’ document for dementia residents
  • Personal belongings (such as clothes for day of discharge, glasses, hearing aid, dentures etc.)
  • A copy of their discharge summary (which details every aspect of the care they received in hospital) so that care home staff understand what has happened in hospital and changes to medication.
* developed in partnership with Epsom and St Helier Hospital Trust, Sutton and Merton Community Services, London Ambulance Service and staff from Sutton


  • To identify and work with interested stakeholders to implement the ‘Red Bag’ in their Borough
  • To review the standardised documentation in the ‘Red Bag’ to identify opportunities to combine with other personal records e.g. catheter and diabetes passports.

Expected outcomes

Improved communication and discharge information between hospitals and care homes when residents are transferred resulting in:

  • Reduction in average length of stay
  • Reduction in readmissions
  • Reduction in medicine errors
  • Reduction in lost personal belongings
  • Improved relationships between care home staff and hospital teams

The HIN is supporting other boroughs to implement their red bag in the coming months and have developed an implementation guide to help areas understand the process involved in implementing this pathway.

If you are interested in implementing the red bag pathway in your area or want more information please see the Sutton Vanguard website and contact Don Shenker, Project Manager, at  don.shenker@nhs.net