The ‘Red Bag’ keeps vital medical info and personal belongings safe during emergency hospital visits
Thousands of care home residents will benefit from an innovation designed to make emergency hospital visits safer and speed up discharge after health and care chiefs agreed to extend the innovative Red Bag scheme across the whole of south London.
The news comes on the United Nation’s International Day of Older Persons (1st October) and means older residents enjoy a more personal and seamless health and care service.
Started three years ago Sutton Vanguard’s Hospital Transfer Pathway ‘Red Bag’ ensures key info such as existing medical conditions and other clinical information is communicated and helps ensure residents return to their care home as promptly as possible once hospital treatment is completed.
Developed by NHS and care home staff, the Red Bag has already been adopted across 11 London boroughs and is expected to go live in south London borough Croydon in November. NHS England unveiled a Red Bag scheme toolkit in June to encourage all areas of the country to adopt the scheme.
Care homes across south London, holding more than 13,000 care home beds between them, have committed to taking part in the Red Bag – a simple innovation which ensures records and personal belongings are kept safe when a care home resident is transferred into hospital.
Under the scheme, when a patient is taken into hospital in an emergency they have a Red Bag to take with them. The Red Bag contains:
- General health information, including on any existing medical conditions
- Medication information so ambulance and hospital staff know immediately what medication they are taking
- Personal belongings (such as clothes for day of discharge, glasses, hearing aid, dentures or other items)
The Red Bag also clearly identifies a patient as being a care home resident and provides hospital staff with the information they need to speed up clinical decisions. This means patients can often be discharged sooner which is better both for the residents and for the NHS, as it means individuals are out of hospital more quickly and money is saved. Extended hospital time can be particularly problematic for those with dementia who can deteriorate more rapidly when away from their usual settings.
The bag stays with the patient whilst they are in hospital. When patients are ready to go home, a copy of their discharge summary (which details every aspect of the care they received in hospital) will be placed in the Red Bag so that care home staff have access to this important information when their residents arrive back home.
The Red Bag has been used with care home residents 2,000 times in south London since April 2017 and length of stay in hospital has reduced by on average 2.4 bed days per Red Bag used.
The Red Bag initiative was created by Sutton CCG hosted Sutton Homes of Care, which was a national Vanguard programme to improve care in residential and nursing homes, in partnership with clinicians from Epsom and St Helier University hospitals, Sutton and Merton Community Services, London Ambulance Service and representatives of the care homes.
Since its introduction in Sutton, the Red Bag has also stopped patients losing personal items such as dentures, glasses and hearing aids worth £290,000 in a year.
There are half a million more people aged over 75 than there were in 2010 – and there will be two million more in ten years’ time. They are also spending more years in ill-health than ever before.
Caroline Dinenage, Care Minister, said:
“The Red Bag is a great innovation that helps link up health and care services for older people, so it’s fantastic news that the whole of south London is now committed to using it. Not only is this more efficient – saving valuable resources – but it leads to a much better experience for patients leaving hospital when their treatment has finished. It’s encouraging to see the scheme being rolled out even further across the country as we move towards our ambition of joined up care that is centred around the individual.”
Aditee Naik, Peartree Care Home Manager, said: “Care home residents are at their most vulnerable when they travel in an emergency into hospital. This is why the Red Bag is so important because it ensures all key paperwork, medication and personal items like glasses, slippers and dentures, are handed to ambulance crews by carers and travel with patients to hospital where they are then handed to the doctor.
“Sometimes it’s the personal touch that makes a big difference to patients, especially if they’re elderly, and the Red Bag helps people feel reassured and more at home. It’s great that on United Nations International Day of Older Persons, here across the whole of South London we are celebrating the fact that the Red Bag is helping ensure our older residents and patients have the very best care.”
Jason Morris, London Ambulance Service Clinical Team Leader, who helped develop the Red Bag at Sutton CCG during its national Vanguard status, said:
“The Red Bag standardises the process of handover from a care home and means we can get all the essential information in one go, no matter which home in they’re in.
“We’re delighted this scheme has led to such a wide range of benefits for us, our colleagues in hospitals as well as care home staff. But most importantly, it’s seen improvements in the care of these patients who can go to the hospital with everything they need. We’re even seeing them returning back to the care home quicker.”
Stephanie Watts, NHS Greenwich CCG Commissioning Manager, said: “The Red Bag pathway is a true example of collaboration between health and care agencies. It works well because all the agencies involved in patient transfers from care homes are invested in it.
“Use of the Red Bags has a number of proven benefits which we are already beginning to see, even though it’s only been a few months, including things like increased communication between hospital teams and Care Home staff, shorter stays in hospital and improved quality of information provided to Care Homes when their residents are discharged.”
Chris Terrahe, Deputy Director of Nursing at Croydon Health Services NHS Trust, said: “We are delighted to be working alongside our partners in Croydon CCG and local care homes as part of the new Red Bag scheme in the borough. For care home residents arriving at or leaving hospital, it should make things much more efficient because all the vital information about their health will be in one place.”
Dr Agnelo Fernandes, Clinical Chair of NHS Croydon CCG and local GP said: “I’m delighted that the Red Bag is being rolled out in Croydon. We’ve seen that it can really reduce hospital stays for care home residents, ultimately improving their quality of life.”
Sarah Blow, Senior Responsible Officer for South West London Health and Care Partnership, said: “We’re incredibly proud of the work being done to improve the health of older people in Sutton by bringing together health and social care providers. Having seen the benefits to patients, we have already rolled out the red bag scheme in other boroughs in south west London, so we’re delighted that this will become a national scheme.”
Tara Donnelly, Chief Executive of the Health Innovation Network, said: “Our hospitals provide great care, but no one wants to spend any longer there than they need to and being transferred from a care home to hospital in an emergency can feel traumatic. That’s why the Red Bag is a great example of a simple idea with a big impact.”