Older patients attending the Emergency Department or Linnet Acute Medical Unit at the Great Western Hospital have said the quality of their care has improved following the introduction of a more specialist approach to caring. 

A new pathway of care has been designed to focus on the unique and often complex needs of older patients whose hospital visits are unplanned.

Following impressive results from a successful pilot last year, Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group provided the funding needed to continue the innovative way of working.

Now a permanent fixture, patients are assessed by a multidisciplinary team of nursing, therapy and social care staff and seen by a geriatrician much earlier on.

Treatment is now likely to begin sooner and more patients are able to leave hospital the same day, with those who need to stay receiving care on a specialist older person's ward. 

The new way of working has led to 80 per cent of older patients being seen by a geriatrician within 24 hours, a significant improvement on the three days that many people previously waited. 

Additionally, half of patients that need further care in hospital are now moved directly to a specialist older person's ward.

Stacey Cotter, Trainee Advanced Clinical Practitioner, said: "In Swindon, we've got a growing and ageing population so, naturally, we are caring for more patients over the age of 75, some of whom are very frail.

"Alongside the reason for attending hospital, they are also likely to have multiple health conditions, such as dementia, arthritis and respiratory problems.

"There are also social factors to consider, including what support the patient has at home.

"All of these factors combined make diagnosis, treatment and developing a care and rehabilitation plan more complex.

"We've used the latest evidence and best practice in older person's care to create a specialist pathway for our older patients.

"This means we focus on the things we know will make the biggest difference to these patients, including working more closely with social care, having a consultant geriatrician on hand, ensuring that whenever possible patients receive care on a specialist older person's ward.

"It's about pulling together all the staff involved in a patients care, as well as their family or carer, earlier on, so that decisions can be made sooner and the risk of delays is reduced.

"As a multidisciplinary team, it's great to see that by working in a more joined-up way and changing every day processes, we've been able to improve the care and overall experience of patients."

Tracy Wray, Senior Commissioning Manager for Older People, Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group, said: "As commissioners, we always look to introduce services that can make a difference to local people and, with more and more people in Swindon living longer, the CCG worked closely with colleagues from the Great Western Hospital and the social care sector to develop this innovative care pathway.

"From the very beginning, the commitment of staff to establish this new approach to care has been inspiring and, as a CCG, we are delighted to be able to support the hospital in continuing this pathway, which we know will continue to benefit older people during unplanned visits to hospital."