Specialist frailty support is now at the end of a phone for healthcare professionals in Northamptonshire – making it easier to ensure people with frailty receive the care and treatment they need in the right place, first time.
The new frailty phone system has been up and running at Northampton and Kettering General Hospitals during March and April, helping ambulance crews work with in-hospital frailty teams to identify exactly the right service for frail patients’ needs.
Under the initiative, East Midlands Ambulance Service staff can call the frailty phone number for KGH or NGH (using the Consultant Connect service) and be directed straight through to specialist clinicians to discuss the individual’s needs and circumstances.
This enables frailty teams to ensure the right services are ready to receive the patient while they are being conveyed to hospital.
Since its launch on 1 March 2021, the new service has been gathering momentum, and has been extended from an initial Monday-to-Friday pilot to run indefinitely, seven days a week.
Uptake has been supported by staff awareness days at both acute hospitals explaining how the initiative works and its benefits to patients, with information distributed to EMAS and emergency department colleagues to raise awareness further.
Helen Hale, Lead Frailty Nurse at NGH, said the awareness days in particular had been hugely beneficial in promoting staff understanding of the initiative.
She said: “Working collaboratively with our EMAS colleagues on this promotional day made a real difference. Having someone from EMAS alongside someone from the frailty team explaining how the system works and the benefits for their patients generated a lot of conversation about frailty and what the frailty team can offer.
“The information EMAS collects while with a patient living with frailty is invaluable. This kind of detail coupled with the consideration of social circumstances can be vital when completing a comprehensive geriatric assessment and helping someone to go home.
“This is just one small example of how different professional groups can work together and make improvements. It’s an exciting time for breaking down boundaries and changing frailty services for the better.”
Kim McAlwane, Lead Frailty Nurse at KGH, added: “We felt it was a very positive experience. The EMAS crews were very keen when we explained what the frailty team can offer.”
Feedback from staff on the frailty phone service has also been positive. One EMAS crew member said: “This is great – I will definitely use the frailty number now I understand the benefits to the patient’s journey.”
Next steps for the frailty phone service are to expand the scope of advice and support on offer to include Intermediate Care Teams (ICT). Discussions have also begun to establish an advice and guidance offer within KGH’s frailty service.
The frailty phone is part of a wider project within the Integrated Care Across Northamptonshire (iCAN) programme to develop frailty hubs, initially within the acute hospitals to provide a point of contact for community colleagues and paramedics to access frailty advice and expertise.
The longer-term ambition is to extend frailty hubs out into the community to ensure frail older adults can access the care and treatment they need outside of hospital and closer to home – as well as supporting people to age well and prevent frailty from occurring.