Red bag scheme helps reduce time spent at GWH for older patients

By Ben Fitzgerald - 24 April 2019


Older patients in Swindon are spending less time at the Great Western Hospital thanks to a simple yet effective initiative that sees care home residents arrive in hospital with their belongings in a distinct red bag.

Since the red bag scheme – a collaboration between Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group – was introduced in January, the average length of stay has reduced by more than a week for those coming into hospital under the scheme.  

The red bags contain current medication, details of medical history and personal belongings, and have helped to improve patient experience and speed up discharges.

Other factors, such as the introduction of a trusted assessor, who works with care homes to support residents before, during and after their hospital stay, have also helped reduce time in hospital.

Under the scheme, patients arrive at the Great Western Hospital with the bag in tow and keep it near to them throughout their stay. With a patient’s information now stored in one easy-to-locate place, staff can begin to plan discharges and treatment goals without delay. 

Viv Zinyemba, Trainee Advanced Care Practitioner for the Department of Medicine for the Elderly, and Trust lead for the red bag scheme, said: “It is so good to see how well this scheme has taken off.

“Patients, as well as staff in hospital and care homes are all on board with the scheme and are completing the necessary documents to ensure that it runs smoothly.

“It is remarkable to see the reduction in hospital stays since introducing the red bags and we hope this will continue to improve. It is very exciting.”

Gill May, Director of Transformation and Nursing, Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It’s incredible to think how such a simple initiative has had such a huge impact.

“We know that lengthy hospital stays can have a detrimental impact on an older person’s health, so it’s great to see that more and more people are spending less time on a ward and more time in their usual surroundings with their family and friends. 

“If the first three months are anything to go by, the next year looks certain to bring even more improvements to patients and staff alike.”

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