The housing sector can free up vital resources for the NHS by helping patients to move back home
The housing sector must get better at proving the contribution it can make in terms of financial savings to public health. In the new NHS commissioning landscape this is about home-based services showing they can bring about change in hospitals - freeing up beds and preventing delays in getting people home. Yet some health commissioners aren’t convinced by the modelled benefits often presented by housing professionals, for example, around falls prevention. They want empirical data pointing to ‘big ticket’ savings.
An example of this can be found in St Helens, where the local home improvement agency took part in a project to speed up hospital discharge. Managed by St Helens Council, the project aimed to ensure that people are in the right environment at the right time, and reduce the number of medically fit patients in acute beds from 40 to 10 in 12 months.
St Helens HIA provided the hospital with a two-man rapid response service to carry out property improvements within 48 hours of a patient assessment. Three months in and targets had been surpassed by 100 per cent. The equivalent of a 30-bed ward has been freed up.
This is proof that home improvement agencies can help adult social care and health teams bring about structural change in hospitals. It also shows the major savings housing can generate for health when given a central role.
A recent report by health charity the King’s Fund suggested areas with well-developed, integrated social care and health services for older people have lower rates of hospital bed use. This project is a prime example. The key is ensuring housing establishes close links with all the agencies involved in the process of hospital discharge.
Rita Thomas is support services manager at St Helens Home Improvement Agency