Rapid response team helps avoid month's worth of hospital admissions in Cumbria

It's no secret that the NHS is under huge strain - staff shortages and recent strikes by health workers in the ITV Border region are adding even more pressure to an already overburdened system.

On top of that, experts estimate that around a third of people attending A&E departments do not need to be there.

So in North Cumbria, a Community Rapid Response team is helping relieve some of that pressure by treating patients at home instead.

Robert Dixon lives in Carlisle and recently came out of hospital following an operation. Since then, the team's been helping him with both urgent and routine care.

Robert Dixon is one patient benefitting from the service. Credit: ITV Border

He said: "They were dressing the wound everyday and then it got to every other day and now it's down to two days a week.

"They're marvellous. I've nothing but praise for the whole lot. And the hospital staff, I was in hospital for six weeks and they were brilliant."

From November 2021 to January 2023, only 102 out of 2,436 patients seen by the team had to go to A&E or an alternative health setting.

Around 2,000 patients are admitted to hospital in North Cumbria each month - roughly the number of people the team helped at home instead.

Staff on the ground are supported by a control hub at Hilltop Heights in Carlisle, where calls are taken from other NHS services, including the ambulance and GPs.

Donna Kerr handles calls at the control hub. Credit: ITV Border

Donna Kerr, one of the coordinators, said: "We're classed as sort of air traffic control if you will. So everything comes into our hub.

"We take the referral and then we distribute it to the team lead. They will then assess whether that patient's needs are immediate.

"We predominantly work with a lot of patients that are house bound.

"So they rely on community services going in, and our nature is to stop them going back in to hospital."

Shelley is one of a range of professionals who can be sent to treat patients at home. Credit: ITV Border

A range of professionals are available to be sent to people's homes; from district nurses to occupational therapists.

Operational Lead, Rachel Jamieson, said: "It's nationally proven that actually delivering patient care at home has better outcomes for patients.

"Quicker rehabilitation times and turnarounds. Also taking away the pressure on the front door for those emergency cases as well."

Crucially, many patients prefer it too, including Mr Dixon.

He said: "I don't want to go back to hospital. Might come a time when I have to and I'm prepared to do that. But I prefer to be at home."

While this method of treatment is not suitable for every patient it's working for those like Robert and helps to relieve pressure on a stretched health service.

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