New 'Red Bag' Scheme To Make Hospital Stays Less Stressful

Merton care homes will use new procedure for their residents

A simple red bag that helps reduce the time care home residents spend in hospital - and making their stay less stressful - has been rolled out to 21 care homes in Merton.

The ‘Red Bag Procedure’ means that when a care home resident needs to go into hospital, a red bag is packed for them containing their personal details, vital information about their health conditions, supplies of regular medicine, personal items and a change of clothes for when they are ready to be discharged. The bag is handed to ambulance staff who pass it to hospital staff on arrival.

Each bag is numbered and contains an audit form with a check list. The documentation is put into a transparent side pocket of the bag while medication and personal items - such as glasses, dentures, hearing aids and a set of clothes to go home in - all go into the main compartment of the bag.

The red bag is a convenient and portable way of ensuring that essential documents and personal items stay with the care home resident and follows them from admission throughout their hospital stay, and following discharge, back to the care home. The red bag is easily identifiable and designed to hold all the essential belongings and standardised documents that care home and hospital staff need.

Dr Andrew Murray, Wimbledon GP and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Chair said: “Like many good ideas, the red bag is a really simple concept. The vital information in the red bag helps doctors and nurses treat the patient quickly and more effectively. It also means there’s less likely to be a delay in getting the patient home from hospital.

“This is good for the patient and good for the NHS. I’m delighted Merton is adopting this scheme and I’m grateful for the support and co-operation of our local hospitals and care homes rolling out the scheme.”

In Sutton, where the red bag scheme originated, they found that it improved communication between hospital and care home staff, improved the whole hospital admission and discharge experience, and the average length of hospital stay for care home residents was reduced.

Part of the standardised paperwork includes a ‘This Is Me’ leaflet (or an equivalent document), which contains personal information unique to that resident – including likes and dislikes – which can be particularly important for those care home residents with dementia.

When patients are ready to go home, a copy of their discharge summary (which details every aspect of the care they received in hospital) is placed in the red bag so that care home staff have access to this important information when their residents  arrive back home.

Initially the red bag is being introduced into Merton nursing and residential homes for older residents. It is expected this will be expanded to cover homes that support people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions.

Avey Bhatia, Chief Nurse and Director of Infection, Prevention and Control at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, welcomed the initiative: “We know that approximately 80% of patients transferred to us from care homes will have dementia, so the red bag initiative is a great way for our staff to make sure patients feel as comfortable as possible, and get the care and treatment they need.”

Jason Morris, Clinical Team Leader, at London Ambulance Service, said: "The great thing about the Red Bag is that, put simply, the service is just more patient focussed.  Because the paperwork is standardised for every patient the handover to the ambulance crew is much more efficient. The process of transferring patients from the care home to hospital is faster, and when patients arrive in hospital they received the care they need much quicker. 

“The Red Bag has really helped improved our patients' experience of being taken to hospital in an emergency, something that everyone involved in this initiative should be really proud of."

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February 2, 2018

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Chair Dr Andrew Murray and resident John Sprakes at red bag launch

Chair Dr Andrew Murray and resident John Sprakes at red bag launch