Named carers for elderly after hospital

Elderly people will be assigned a “named individual” responsible for their care once they leave hospital, because the NHS is “failing” those with long-term needs, the Health Secretary will say.

In a speech to mark the 65th anniversary of the health service, Jeremy Hunt will say that it is in danger of letting down the elderly, as it was designed for people who “went into hospital unwell and came out better”.

But more than eight million people now have serious long-term health conditions and the NHS needs “radically different models of care”, he will say. Mr Hunt wants patients to be allocated a named clinician, “where the buck stops”.

The Health Secretary will also outline plans for a government body which will study people’s health records and genetic profiles to help “improve understanding” of diseases and their treatments.

Under the proposal to improve out-of-hospital care, the named individual will be a clinician – either a GP, other doctor or community nurse – and will have to coordinate medical help whether a pensioner is in their own home or a care home.

Mr Hunt would prefer the person to be a GP and to be responsible for ensuring that out-of-hours care is available. Speaking at a London hospital, he is expected to say: “The NHS is the nation’s most loved and most successful institution. In 65 years, the NHS has quite simply done more to improve people’s lives that any other institution in our history.

“But as we celebrate, we also reflect. The world today is very different to 1948. The old model was curable illnesses where you went into hospital unwell and came out better.

“Yet most people now leave hospital with long-term conditions which need to be supported and managed at home.”

He will add: “The challenge today is to provide integrated, coordinated out-of-hospital care …  To do that we need to know that there is a clinician accountable for vulnerable older people in the community just as there is a consultant responsible for them in hospital. As a member of the public I would like that to be my GP, but whoever it is, they should be named so that patients, families and carers all know where the buck stops.”

The policy, to be introduced next year in England, is a tacit admission that GPs often fail the elderly, particularly outside surgery hours.

There has been growing concern that they are not available during evenings and weekends, which has led to many more people arriving at hospital emergency departments.

In an interview published tonight by The House magazine, Mr Hunt spoke of his concern that GPs no longer knew the names of patients and pledged to scrap unnecessary bureaucracy in surgeries.

The described visiting a GP’s surgery which has more “personal contact” with patients.

“The doctor I saw this morning does home visits regularly, he’s one of the few GPs who still regularly do home visits,” Mr Hunt said. “It’s not that other GPs don’t want to but they don’t have time and we’ve created a contractual framework that makes it very, very difficult – they are working hard, they are rushed off their feet – for them to do what being a family doctor is all about.”

“The receptionist knew the names of everybody who came through the door … The big thing that he does, which is something that I think we’ve lost in too many parts of the NHS, is there is this personal contact where he knew people’s background and he knew all about them and was asking to go and see them and check up on them.”

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