Joan’s back on her feet thanks to pioneering new service

GREAT-GRANDMA Joan Wilson is back doing her chores and enjoying life at the house she’s called home for the past 60 years – and the plucky 84-year-old has no plans to leave it.

It’s thanks to Doncaster’s pioneering community based fast response service that quickly helped the former nurse recover at home after falling in her kitchen.

Joan, back at work in her kitchen, with support worker Lisa Shelbourne

She was reaching for a tea-towel when she slipped and fell over. Over the next couple of hours she gradually managed to inch her way along the floor of her Intake home, eventually reaching the phone to alert one of her four children, who all live some distance away.

He rang a neighbour who rushed round and contacted the ambulance service. Paramedics gave her a thorough check, no bones were broken but she was shaken and bruised, so they called in Doncaster’s new Rapid Response Service (RRS). The specialist team, made up of NHS and Doncaster Council social services staff including nurses, care workers, therapists and emergency care practitioners is available to people who don’t need admitting to hospital but would benefit from short-term care and support to enable them to stay at home.

After talking to the paramedics the RRS arranged for a physiotherapist and a social care worker to visit Joan and carry out a joint assessment to make sure she was safe to manage at home. This was also an opportunity to identify any potential hazards in Joan’s home – such as loose carpets or sloppy slippers – that could cause a future fall. Joan was immediately provided with some equipment for her bathroom to help keep her safe and she was given an electronic ‘alert’ pendant, which is linked to a control room at Doncaster Council that’s open around the clock. Joan now wears this every day, so if she gets into difficulties in future all she has to do is simply press the pendant to contact staff, who will talk to her via a wall-mounted loudspeaker box.

The social care worker quickly arranged a package of ‘reablement’ support to help Joan regain her confidence and mobility. Support worker Lisa Shelbourne, from Doncaster’s Short term Enablement Programme (STEPs), has been making regular visits, initially to help Joan get dressed and to help with meals. But five weeks on from the fall, she has gradually been able to step back and have less of a hands-on role as Joan successfully progresses with her recovery and gets back into her regular routine.
A detailed falls assessment carried out by the RRS team found that a review of Joan’s medication was required and this was arranged with her GP, along with visits from one of the nursing staff to monitor her blood pressure for a couple of days.

Joan, who has lived alone since her husband died a few years ago, said: “I am a very independent woman and don’t like relying on anyone but without the support of this service, coupled with the fact that my family live so far away, I don’t know what I would have done.

“I like living in my own home and looking after myself and don’t want to go into a residential home.”

Joan’s no stranger to the care environment, having worked at both Doncaster Royal Infirmary (DRI) and Tickhill Road Hospital during a health service career spanning 30 years, which included being the nursing sister in charge of the first intensive care unit in the north of England – based at DRI.

Dr David Crichton, Chair of NHS Doncaster CCG, said: “Joan’s story is a great example of why we’ve introduced this scheme. In the past, she would probably have routinely been admitted to a hospital bed for monitoring, where she didn’t need to be, and this would have impacted on her recovery and possibly even affected her confidence in being able to return home.
“Joan wants to remain living in her own home for as long as possible and we want to help her to do so with services like this.”

Kim Curry, Director of Adults, Health and Wellbeing Doncaster Council, said: “Keeping people safe and independent in their own home is at the very centre of our new ‘Your Life, Your Way’ approach to social care. Working closely with our health colleagues is critical to deliver this aspiration and the new integrated rapid response service is a great start. The council will be supporting people in a much more personalised way which focuses on upon their individual needs, choices and way they want to live their life.”

Between January and August last year, falls by Doncaster people aged 65 and over accounted for over 2,500 calls made to Yorkshire Ambulance Service and around 70 per cent of those patients were taken to hospital as a result. Whilst some experienced major injury as a result of the fall, a review found that a large number could have been cared for at home if a suitable service had been available.

The RRS launched at the end of January this year in response to that need. It’s a joint initiative between a number of NHS organisations based in the borough and Doncaster Council that will initially be trialled for six months, operating from 8am to 8pm every day of the week.

In its first six weeks it has helped 44 people, with over 90 per cent of them being able to remain at home after assessment, with specialist support to aid their recovery.
Team members take referrals from the ambulance service and then visit the patient at home to organise whatever support is needed. It can include specialist equipment like telecare alarms, practical support to help them continue living independently, home based treatment and monitoring of any health needs, medical review plus personal care advice and exercise programmes to improve mobility and balance.