Care homes and NHS healthcare services must work more closely together to improve levels of care for older people, according to researchers.
The three year study was led by the University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with Lancaster University, the University of Surrey, Brunel University and University College London, and is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Services and Delivery Research (NIHR HS&DR) Programme.
Dr Katherine Froggatt with Dr Hazel Morbey from the International Observatory on End of Life Care at Lancaster University interviewed residents and staff at two residential care homes in North Lancashire.
Dr Froggatt said: “Everyone knows the importance of good communication and better integration between health and social care, we are less clear however, about how to achieve it and make sure that all residents in care homes get equal access to NHS services when needed.”
Many different NHS services visit older people in care homes, and they are very aware of the need to improve the way they work with the care homes to deliver their service. This has led to the development of a range of initiatives that range from the funding of NHS beds in care homes to the creation of specialist roles designed to promote better working between primary care and the care homes.
The study also found that access to NHS services and identification of older peoples’ health care needs hardly ever involved joint review or discussion with care home staff, and even more rarely did it include the older person or one of their family.
NHS services need to see care homes as partners in care and not just the solution to the problem of where to place older people who can no longer live at home. For care home residents, the recognition and inclusion of care home staff or a relative in the discussions on their health care needs provides the support for a more resident-focused care service.
By adjusting ways of working, the NHS services can ensure it provides healthcare which takes into account the older person’s priorities and concerns as well as the care home staff that provide the care.
Professor Claire Goodman from the University of Hertfordshire said: “Our research found that there was not a particular model of working that ensured older people received consistent care, and few systems in place to evaluate what is being achieved. Over ten years ago, research highlighted that NHS provision to care homes was inequitable. Our findings suggest this is still the case and, if anything, it is worse.”