Suffolk Coastal District Council has received £87,000 in funding to support the ‘Stepping Home’ project.
Stepping Home is a partnership project between the East Suffolk councils, Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council, Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils, East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, Orwell Housing, British Red Cross and Lofty Heights and is supported by the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group’s Transformation Fund, which encourages groups in Suffolk to ‘think outside the box’ to find ways to reduce pressure on the health system in the county.
Working through Ipswich Hospital, officers from the Council’s Warm Homes Healthy People team discovered patients are often unable to be discharged once medically fit due to their housing (known as a Delayed Transfer of Care, or DTOC). The patient could be awaiting adaptations such as a stair lift or ramps, a declutter, a home repair after a minor fire, flood or other reasons.
When a patient is medically fit, a hospital environment is not a suitable location. In a ward setting, they are at risk of infection, deconditioning, and being de-skilled. It is not uncommon for patients to be ‘stuck’ and unable to return home for several days or sometimes weeks and this also uses a bed which could be used by another patient.
The aim of the Stepping Home project is to use existing vacant units of accommodation to act as temporary accommodation for Ipswich Hospital patients who are medically fit, but are unable to be discharged due to housing-related reasons. A hospital bed costs the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust approximately £400 per day whereas the temporary accommodation will cost a fraction of this, around £45 per day.
Councillor Richard Kerry, Suffolk Coastal District Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing said:
”Stepping Home is a fantastic opportunity to use otherwise vacant accommodation to not only avoid unnecessary hospital admission, but also hospital DTOC. It will greatly help patients regain independence as soon as possible.”
The first unit of accommodation is at Orwell Housing Association’s Emily Bray House, a short distance from Ipswich Hospital.
Paul Kingston, Director of Housing and Care Services at Orwell Housing Association said:
“We are delighted to be supporting the Stepping Home Project in association with the East Suffolk Councils. The initiative will enable individuals to retain their independence, take a step closer to home and reduce the pressure on hospital beds through the provision of our supported accommodation.’
“It will give them more time and care in a non-hospital environment to improve or maintain their level of independence, while helping them and their family to make longer term care arrangements if needed or by returning back to their own homes.”
Mrs B was the first occupant for the project and moved into the unit at the start of January while essential works are being carried out in her home. When asked if she liked the accommodation, she said: “I can watch TV, it’s nice and warm and I feel safe”.
Patients will be able to stay in the accommodation while their home intervention is being completed, normally short stays, but up to a maximum of 2 months. The project will be running for 11 months, and as well as temporarily housing patients, the project will be collecting detailed data as to the number and reasons for housing related DTOC and what can be done in the future to prevent them.