Spotlight on: Steph Ward, Home First Unit

Steph Ward, Quality Improvement and Cardiology Nurse, has been charged with developing a new unit which will form a bridge between our hospital and community services.

The 30-bed unit on Gunthorpe Ward is being redesigned to accommodate patients who are medically well enough for discharge but who are waiting for community support, or beds, or packages of care. Due to the pressures within community services, patients may wait for some weeks within an acute ward at our hospital.

It is also well-known that long stays in hospital can have a detrimental impact on a patient’s health. Patients may experience muscle wastage if they remain in bed for the duration of their stay, so when community care becomes available, they may need more care due to their deterioration or they may have to go back to an acute bed.

The majority of the patients on the unit are older people, but the team will also be looking after post trauma and post-surgery patients.

The aim of the Home First Unit is to provide an environment that supports maintaining and improving a patient’s physical, functional and cognitive ability where patients are encouraged to increase their independence in activities of daily living. They are encouraged to get up, dress and walk around and do things for themselves – just as they would at home. This means they are less likely to need to return to an acute bed – helping the hospital free up valuable bed space for other patients. In some cases, through enablement, the patients may be fitter than they were on admission to the unit and therefore may need less care once discharged.

“This is so exciting,” said Steph. “It really is innovative because we have never had anything like this in the hospital. We are not a medical or clinical unit. This is a real focus on re-enablement. We have exercise trainers who come in and take our patients through some gentle exercises and work with physiotherapists in implementing an exercise plan. We also use pet assisted therapy (PAT) dogs to help with wellbeing and we are unusual in that we have really good associations with charities such as Age UK.

“Charity volunteers come in and get to know the patients and continue that relationship when they leave so there is continuity for discharged patients. It all helps in the settling in process for them and can help to remove some of the anxiety about moving out of the hospital after what might have been quite a length of time.”

The unit also has a social worker, providing additional support for the “red to green” process which sees patients reviewed twice daily to ensure patient care needs are met with appropriate community services. Until the patient is discharged into a community setting or goes home, they still remain under the care of their consultant so they still have the reassurance of medical care should they need it.

Steph added: “We had a real success story with a patient who had been with us for quite a while as she waited for a short-term bed to become available in the community. By the time she was able to be discharged she was fitter than she had been on arrival and no longer needed a care package at all. This is what we are looking to do – we want to get people home reaching their full potential.”

The Trust has already started a significant recruitment drive to staff the unit looking for 24 whole-time equivalent health care assistants, 19 whole-time equivalent nurses at Band 5 and later the team will be looking for more senior nursing staff.

“Anyone who is appointed in this round of recruitment will have a real opportunity to shape the unit. At the moment we have a chance to try things and build something really quite special. It really is a very exciting time to join us,” said Steph.

Claire Wells will be the new Home First Unit Matron. She said: “I am looking forward to developing and training our staff to provide a new model of care that provides support to encourage wellbeing and independence whilst our patients are waiting for community support.”

In Steph’s dreams she wants the unit to have a day area where activities can take place and patients can really step away from their beds, creating a more home like feel to their stay.

“If you were at home you would be up and about, moving from room to room. It would be great, over time to be able to provide facilities such as a dining room with lots of tables. But this is my vision for further down the line.”

If you are interested in working on the unit or would like to be involved in the development of the service, please contact Steph Ward, Tracey Fleming or Claire Wells or complete an application form.

The unit will be managed by our Clinical Support Services division, working collaboratively with colleagues across the other divisions, utilising resources to provide a high-quality patient experience.

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