Rapid Response Teams potentially a great way to reduce hospital strain

The NHS has announced plans to pilot community crisis, or ‘rapid response’, teams that will visit people in their homes within two hours in seven areas across the country.

The Guardian reports that it is hoped that the teams, which will consist of a range of nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers and social care staff, and will be available every day of the year will help to ease the strain on NHS hospitals by visiting the elderly and those with complex care needs in need of urgent support following a crisis, such as a fall or a sudden deterioration of an existing condition, thereby preventing the need for them to be taken to hospital.

As reported by the BBC, the pilot will also aim to guarantee care packages within two days for hospital patients who are ready to be discharged from hospital. This is because around one in 20 hospital beds is regularly taken by older patients who are deemed medically fit to be discharged, but who have to be kept in because there is no community care available to support them in their own homes as they then recuperate.

Around £14 million has been set aside to test the rapid response teams, with the teams being put together by the NHS and councils in the seven trial areas from April. It is intended that at least three areas will start to offer the service before next winter – a time of year that places extra demand on the NHS. The seven trial areas will be:

  • Warrington
  • West Yorkshire
  • Leicestershire
  • Cornwall
  • Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire
  • South East London
  • Norfolk and Suffolk

Following the pilot, NHS chiefs have said that every part of the country will then have a rapid response team in place by April 2023.

However, it should be noted that the latest figures from NHS Digital show that the number of nurses working in community services has fallen over the past decade from 67,316 in September 2009 to 62,898 last October. This represents a 6.6% drop in personnel.

Therefore, it has to be asked if there will be enough staff to be able to attend to those who need urgent support within two hours.

We sincerely hope there will be, as our view is that we welcome any proposal that helps to improve the provision of service and quality of care. We recently wrote about the numerous issues the NHS is dealing with. Chief among these is that the NHS A&E waiting time target of seeing patients within four hours is at its lowest-ever success rare – 79%. The NHS aims to achieve this target 95% of the time.

Anything then that can help to ease the strain on NHS hospitals, ensure high levels of care in our hospitals, reduce instances of medical negligence and, most importantly, endure that those in need of urgent attention receive it, whether it be in hospital or in their own homes, is a good thing.

We will be keeping a close eye on how this pilot goes and wholeheartedly want it to achieve its aims.