VULNERABLE elderly people at risk of being isolated when they return home from hospital will get the extra support they need after a pioneering project in one Yorkshire city was given £300,000 in funding.
The Hospital to Home (H2H) project in Leeds has already established a small pilot, but will now be able to expand to support hundreds of people as they settle back into home life following illness or injury.
The funding is part of a £2m NHS England-led scheme, aimed at helping vulnerable people this winter.
The project, which will be managed by Age UK Leeds in partnership with Leeds City Council, local health services, British Red Cross and other community and voluntary sector groups, will see a team of dedicated volunteers working to prevent older people going back into hospital once they have gone home and making sure they do not become isolated while they recover.
Loneliness can be as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and can contribute to a range of health problems, including dementia and high blood pressure.
The Yorkshire Post launched its Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic campaign in February after we highlighted the heartbreaking scale of loneliness in the region. In Yorkshire, 91,300 older people living alone describe themselves as feeling lonely often or all of the time – and the number is growing, with more and more older people living alone each year.
By working directly with hospitals and local adult social care teams to identify patients in need of extra support, volunteers on the Hospitals at Home team will aim to ensure older people will not be left to cope alone.
Coun Adam Ogilvie, Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care, said: “Adjusting to home life after a stay in hospital is an anxious time for anyone, but for older people there is the added worry of getting transport back home, getting around the house and, for many, wondering when they will next see a visitor or a friendly face.
“That transitional period is also a very vulnerable time for older people, when they can be at risk of either going back into hospital or becoming isolated and lonely, particularly over the winter months when getting out and about can become much more difficult. Having a team of people dedicated to making that transition less stressful will make a massive difference and this money will be a huge boost to a project that is a genuine lifeline to older people in Leeds.”
Support will also be offered to all eligible older people when they arrive in A and E departments. Support could include shopping, cooking and prescription collections, home safety checks and cleaning.
The new funding means the project will be able to help an estimated 1,400 patients over the next six months, including during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
Heather O’Donnell, chief executive at Age UK Leeds, said: “We hope the project will reduce pressures on local hospitals and very importantly improve the experience of older people after a stay in hospital or visit to A and E. We will work with older people to support them maintain their independence, improve their wellbeing and give them greater choice and control over their lives.”
The service is now looking for volunteers. Contact Alexandra Boyle on 0113 389 3017.
A similar scheme by Age UK in North Yorkshire has already helped more than 200 people.