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NHS rapid response teams to help older people at home

Rapid response teams of nurses, physios and other health professionals will be on hand within two hours to help support older people at home, NHS England has announced.

However, nursing leaders have warned that the plans cannot ‘substitute’ having enough nurses in communities, social care and hospitals. 

The Urgent Community Response teams will be rolled out in seven areas from April with plans to cover every part of the country by 2023. Currently, there is ‘wide variation’ in how these services are delivered nationally, admitted NHS England.

The teams will support older people and adults with complex health needs to remain independent by providing urgent care in the home including if they are at risk of being hospitalised. Referral can be made from a GP or other health and social care worker.

Teams will also be expected to provide tailored care packages or reablement services in the home within two days after a hospital stay. 

An additional £4.5billion a year will be provided for primary care and community services by 2023/24 to support the new standards of care.

The move forms part of the NHS Long Term Plan’s commitment to support England’s ageing population and those with complex needs.

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said the plans would give ‘people and their families peace of mind about what they can expect from their local services when they need help most’.

‘That’s why as part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS we are putting community services front and centre, and backing them with a growing share of the NHS budget,’ he added.

However, Royal College of Nursing chief executive Dame Donna Kinnair noted the announcement comes as new figures show ‘yet more nurses’ have been lost from local community services in recent years.

‘The evidence shows it is district nurses and health visitors who provide high quality holistic care in people’s homes,’ she continued.

‘There can be no substitute for having enough nurses in communities, social care and hospitals too.’

Latest figures from NHS Digital show there were 6,999 health visitors working in England as of October 2019 – compared to 9,481 at the same point five years ago.