The system, known among health professionals as ‘Rapid Response’ exists as an urgent intervention to keep people in their own homes and avoid a hospital admission if possible and appropriate. It was beefed up after the latest round of community hospital beds closures around two years ago.
Unfortunately, despite the investment, there isn’t enough paid carers to look after people in their own homes. Last year I chaired a spotlight review into the service, which called on a number of witnesses, including a senior GP involved in the Local Medical Committee, Hospiscare and a patient representative. The NHS and representatives from Devon County Council’s Adult Social Care Service were also involved.
Although the witnesses agreed that the service was valuable, all agreed that it was not adequately staffed and that recruitment and retention of staff was a huge problem. A survey revealed that some GPs are now simply not using the service because they are so often told it isn’t available. Hospiscare say that care of dying people is being adversely affected and their 12 bedded in-patient unit in Exeter has continued huge pressures on it.
The problems have escalated since the closure of community hospital beds across Eastern Devon.
The latest set of figures relating to people being able to be discharged in a timely manner from the RD&E have also deteriorated since last August, however at the 23 January Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting, councillors were told that this may be a problem with counting rather than resulting from a worsening situation. They are investigating.
Unallocated packages of care have also significantly increased, according to the latest performance report, debated at the January Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee.
Levels of staffing are outlined heavily in the risk assessment relating to the latest round of government funding cuts, which will be debated at next month’s full council.
Adequate levels of staffing appear to be one of the biggest challenges facing Devon County Council, which has also emphasised that the prospect of Brexit will only make matters worse.