Local clinicians are appealing to relatives who can play a key part in helping loved ones to leave hospital, as the NHS and social care enters an extremely difficult Winter.

The support of relatives can be a key part in enabling patients who are medically ready to leave hospital so that they can be more comfortable and recover more quickly at home.

If relatives can help their loved ones on a regular basis, they are being asked to please speak to the team planning their care as it may mean that they go home a few days earlier.

NHS and social care services in Dorset are working closely together to help support people in a bid to avoid hospital unless essential. This is in addition, as well as to come out of hospital more quickly and recover in the comfort of their own homes wherever possible.

As soon as a person is medically ready to leave hospital, they should be discharged home – or to a local care home or community hospital, if that is more appropriate – and assessed to see if they require additional support to aid their recovery.

As health and social care services continue to be stretched due to the ongoing pandemic, the role of relatives in supporting patients is very highly valued.

This could include providing some personal care for their relatives in their home, including looking after them during the initial period after they have left hospital.

This could mean including support with shopping, administering medication, changing dressings, meal preparation, checking on their welfare and wellbeing by having regular contact with them particularly following discharge from hospital.

As well as relatives, friends and neighbours can also play a valued role in supporting people in the local community.

Dr Tristan Richardson, medical director for medicine at University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We need to ensure that when our patients are medically ready that they can leave as soon as possible to avoid having a knock-on effect across our hospitals.

“The person who can’t leave means someone can’t get out of the admission area, so someone else can’t get out of the emergency department into admissions, which means an ambulance cannot offload and therefore can’t be attending an emergency in the community.”

“We need to work with families to help support their loved ones when they leave our hospitals. We thank everyone involved with the ongoing care of our patients as we know what a difference it makes for their recovery and health to be able to safely leave our hospitals when ready.”

Professor Alastair Hutchison, Chief Medical Officer at Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We know that for older people who have recovered to the point of not needing further medical care in hospital, a prolonged delay in discharge can result in what’s called ‘deconditioning’ where immobility and inactivity causes muscle weakness, walking difficulty and increased risk of falls and fractures.”

“Clearly not all friends and relatives will be in a position to support their loved ones in this way, but where they can do, it would make a real difference to their recovery and help the hospital to manage other emergencies as well.”

Cllr Karen Rampton, Portfolio Holder for People and Homes, BCP Council, said: “At a time when services are particularly stretched and with a difficult winter ahead of us, BCP Council fully supports the NHS appeal for friends and families to help people leave hospital.

“Alongside the care services that we provide, it’s vitally important that patients receive extra support from those closest to them to assist with recovery and a return to good health and independence.”

Cllr Peter Wharf, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “The families and friends of residents, who unfortunately have to go into hospital are going to be so important this winter.

Residents who are medically well enough to be discharged from hospital may need some additional help when they return home.

“By being the someone who is there to make sure they have provisions, a hot meal, something to drink, and are taking any prescribed medication, will not only help their loved one get well in their own environment, but will help another Dorset resident who needs a hospital bed.

“This will also mean precious care resources are being used by those who are most in need.”

“All services will be working hard this winter to make sure everyone who needs medical attention in hospital can be, and family and friends of a discharged resident will play a vital part of the process and we thank you for it.”

Relatives are being signposted to resources to help assist them if they are supporting loved ones once they have been discharged from hospital. These include:

https://www.mylifemycare.com/article/6307/Leaving-hospital

Discharge_from_hospital_and_recovery_at_home_-_information_for_patients.pdf (dorsethealthcare.nhs.uk)