Charity’s prevention pitch could ease A&E pressures

Watford General Hospital.
Watford General Hospital.

A good cause that helps old folk is hoping to secure funding for a pilot scheme that could help ease the pressure on already stretched A&E services.

Age UK Dacorum has applied for around £2,000 from the Public Health Partnership Fund to pay for volunteers to visit elderly people who have been identified as at risk.

Their work could involve linking an isolated person with the charity’s befriending service, installing aids to prevent falls at home through its handyman scheme, identifying if the person needs financial help with heating bills or transport to get to GP appointments.

Charity chairman Mike Moore said: “If we can save a hospital admission that can only go to help with the pressures on A&E.

“Clearly the cost of patients going to A&E is going to be much higher than the cost of an initial assessment and providing help at a lower level.”

Age UK Dacorum is working with Berkhamsted’s Milton House Surgery, which it estimates has between 30 and 70 patients that may require a visit.

But if the pilot, which will target people aged 75 and over and be undertaken with the consent of those involved, is a success it could be rolled out to other areas in the borough.

Mr Moore said: “We are hopeful that there might be some additional funding available from the clinical commissioning group or Herts County Council. They might want to come together and perhaps fund us for some more of this kind of work.

“If it does prevent avoidable admissions then that can only be a good thing.”

The charity is already one step ahead of a government backed proposal for an army volunteers from various charities to help ease the winter health crisis by offering help in hospitals and at home.

West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust has already issued advice in a bid to prevent Watford General Hospital’s A&E from becoming overwhelmed with patients during the colder months.

In October some ambulances had to be diverted to other hospitals after a backlog of patients waiting to be discharged meant there were no beds available for a short time.

The trust has launched a ‘keep warm, keep well’ drive to educate people on how to cope with traditional winter illnesses such as flu and the norovirus. It also highlights other health services that are on offer to help from GPs to the NHS 111 number.