Community beds for people at the end of life and those with intensive rehabilitation needs are now being used in Holsworthy – thanks to innovative thinking by local people.
The NHS has been working with the Holsworthy Community Involvement Group (HCIG) to ensure the area has the right health and care services.
Early feedback from the project suggested that bedded care for those nearing the end of life was a priority.
After a request by the HCIG, the NHS undertook a procurement exercise and partnered with Holsworthy Health Care to provide beds at Deer Park Care Home for people at the end of life and those with intensive rehabilitation needs.
Gary Patch, who is part of the NHS community services team at Northern Devon Healthcare Care NHS Trust, sits alongside local people and NHS colleagues on the HCIG and has helped to bring these beds to Holsworthy.
Gary said: “Holsworthy’s rural and remote location presents specific challenges for delivering health care services.
“To find the right answers we need to think a little differently and provide unique solutions.
“Providing bedded care at Deer Park is one of the ways we can do this.”
The beds are intended for people from Holsworthy and the surrounding parishes and are part of what’s called a “block contract” with the home.
As a result the home will set aside three beds for the exclusive use of the NHS. Care will be free to all NHS patients.
Patients will be supported with specialist care from Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust’s (NDHT) teams of community nursing and therapy staff, based at Holsworthy Hospital. Devon Doctors and NDHT’s out-of-hours nursing team will provide out-of-hours support.
People at the end of life with more complex needs will continue to be referred to North Devon Hospice.
The new model will be tested over a six-month period.
Andrew Smith, from nearby Chilsworthy, is a member of the Holsworthy Community Involvement Group. His wife Penny was one of the first to make use of a bed at the home a few days before her death earlier this month.
“Having Penny there was terrific,” he said.
“She was cared for by the same NHS team who previously looked after her at home and this made it so much easier for her. They were excellent and I can’t say enough thanks to them for what they did.
“She and I were really grateful that she was able to spend her final days close to home.
“Local beds are needed by local people and this is one way that they can be provided quickly.”
Inpatient beds at Holsworthy Hospital were temporarily closed in March 2017.
Problems recruiting medical and nursing staff mean that the beds remain closed at present. But since the temporary closures local non-bed-based services at the hospital have increased.
There are now more than 50 clinics or groups running from the site, including a group for mums and babies, a leg clinic, services for people with Parkinson’s and patients with kidney disease, retinal screening, stroke rehabilitation and a rheumatology clinic.
It is also the base for 37 health and social care staff who help patients get back on their feet, reduce avoidable hospital admissions and promote health, wellbeing and independence. It is these staff that now also provide the enhanced care to those patients using these beds.
Councillor Jon Hutchings, former Holsworthy mayor and a member of the HCIG, welcomed today’s announcement.
“We haven’t had NHS beds in Holsworthy for some time so this is really significant for local people.
“It’s a practical, short-term solution that means people can spend their final days or receive intensive rehabilitation near their loved ones.”
Gary said: “One of our main requirements for reopening the beds at Holsworthy Hospital is for safe medical cover to be in place followed by a full complement of nursing staff.
“Obtaining cover has proved to be difficult to achieve quickly because we are experiencing staffing difficulties right across the NHS and this isn’t something that can be solved easily.
“We hope the interim beds at Deer Park Care Home will go some way to meet the immediate needs of the people locally as we continue to do our best to open the beds.”
Councillor Hutchings added: “Longer-term we also need a solution. Our local group continues to work really well with the NHS as we tackle the longer-term challenge of getting services right for our community.”
The Deer Park service is the first to have been recommended by the Holsworthy Community Involvement Group.
The group was set up to work on a set of recommendations to improve care in the area. It is predominantly made up of local people, community leaders and representatives with support from the NHS.
These recommendations, along with clinical, financial and logistical considerations, will then inform decisions about services in future. Final recommendations are expected later this summer.
Janet Orchard, owner of Deer Park Care Home, said: “Deer Park and its staff are delighted to work in partnership with NDHT and are excited about this forward-thinking and innovative development.
“The local community is really important to our organisation and we are honoured to be a part of the process to further improve and develop healthcare services for the residents of Holsworthy and surrounding parishes.”