Red Bag scheme to improve and speed up care gets good response at George Eliot Hospital

People living in over 70 Warwickshire care homes are now benefiting from an initiative to help them get rapid and effective treatment, should they need to go into hospital – and staff at Nuneaton’s George Eliot Hospital got the opportunity to find out more about how the scheme works last week.

Containing everything from vital personal information and pyjamas to medical notes and slippers, the innovative ‘Red Bag’ scheme has been launched by Warwickshire County Council and partners to help make trips to hospital faster for Warwickshire care home residents who are transferred to A&E departments – including at George Eliot Hospital – by West Midlands Ambulance Service.

The Red Bags – which stay with people throughout their hospital stay, including if they are admitted to a ward – contain standardised information about the individual’s overall health, any current medical conditions they have and vital personal details, as well as highlighting their present health worry.

This means that ambulance and hospital staff can decide the treatment a care home resident needs quickly and effectively.

Personal objects such as dentures, glasses, hearing aid and toiletries are also contained in the Red Bag, as well as a change of clothes and pair of slippers so people can function as well as possible in hospital, get out of bed and be prepared to go back to their care home as quickly as they are able.

The Red Bag is already saving time in the handover of residents from care home to ambulance and from ambulance to A&E. It is also assisting hospital ward staff to work towards a quicker discharge, as they are continuously reminded that the patient is a care home resident. The bag also helps reduce the risk of lost belongings by keeping everything together in one place throughout the hospital stay.

A wide range of hospital staff were spoken to at the ‘pop-up’ information event, which was held outside George Eliot’s main hospital restaurant, Raveloes. A good range of feedback was received, with some hospital staff having already encountered the Red Bag and others keen to learn about it and spread the word further. All of the hospital staff spoken to thought the Red Bag was a good idea, particularly as a way of effectively determining patients’ needs and in helping to reduce the amount of phone calls made to care homes.

There are now over 70 residential and nursing homes across Warwickshire using the scheme. Feedback from those homes has shown a clear reduction in instances of lost belongings and paperwork, as well as positive feedback from care staff and residents.

The Warwickshire version of the Red Bag builds on good practice seen elsewhere in the country where Red Bags have already been used and has been developed by Warwickshire County Council alongside partners including Warwickshire’s NHS Hospital Trusts, CCGs, West Midlands Ambulance Service, and care home providers. Its development has been supported by the Better Care Fund in Warwickshire.

Cllr Les Caborn, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “The thinking behind the Red Bag is very simple, however it has the potential to be so important for care home residents who require a hospital stay and could be assessed by numerous staff over a number of days.

“Having all of the pertinent details about a patient in one stand-out place enables staff to take the best choices for that patient, and likewise, their care home will be able to carry on doing so when the patient has come back. It helps provide quicker discharges, making sure patients are getting home promptly.”