Bright red bags help ease the journey from care home to hospital, and back again

Ten care homes in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) are piloting a new initiative whereby residents who need to visit hospital are accompanied by a distinctive red bag, which contains all relevant medical information as well as their personal belongings.

A resident and her carer at MHS Stratton House Care Home in Bath, one of the homes trialing the pilot.

The red bags will stay with the patient for the duration of a hospital visit and contain specific admission and discharge checklists for medical staff to fill out. These lists will help ensure that every member of the medical team receives exactly the same information, and nothing gets misplaced or miscommunicated on the way in or out of hospital.

“The idea behind the red bag is so simple yet has the potential to be so powerful for care home residents who need to visit hospital and could be seen by a number of staff over a period of days.

“Having all of the relevant information about a patient in one stand-out place will help staff make the best decisions for that patient, and equally, their care home will be able to continue doing so once the patient has returned,” said Caroline Holmes, the Senior Commissioning Manager for Better Care for Bath and North East Somerset Council and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

The initiative is being introduced jointly by the CCG and The Council into initially five nursing and five residential care homes in B&NES. It was first launched in 2016 by Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group and the design of the B&NES pilot has had important input from hospital matrons and palliative care nurses at the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust.

The sorts of information contained in the bag will include a general medical history – including any pre-existing medical conditions and medication the person is taking – as well as details of the immediate health concern.

“The most important thing is that patients have the best experience and receive the best care possible, and a lot of that is down to effective communication between each member of staff looking after them,” said Maria Kelly-Fursdon, Manager of Newbridge Towers Residential Care Home in Bath.

Efficient communication helps build good working relationships and working practices between the care home and hospitals, which ensures that a resident’s hospital admission and discharge is also efficient.

The pilot launches in September 2017 and will be reviewed after six months to evaluate how it is working and decide whether the red bags will be introduced into all care homes in B&NES.