Council’s Hospital Social work team brings a network of support to individuals that need it most

Older Barnsley residents who have had a spell in hospital are getting back in their homes and returning to their normal lives as quickly as possible, thanks to the work of Barnsley Council’s Hospital Social Work Team.

These social workers help assess the needs of patients and provide help and support to enable a safe hospital discharge.

On a daily basis, they work closely with Barnsley Hospital to make sure people who are discharged from hospital receive the most appropriate support. Getting this right makes it less likely that people will end up back in hospital or stay longer than they need to. This improves patient experience, by preventing unnecessary admissions and reducing the number of people waiting to be discharged.

Across the country, hospitals are under huge amount of pressure and need support from their local council to make sure as soon as someone’s not in need of acute care anymore they can be discharged.

Every day someone stays in an acute hospital bed that they don’t need any more is a risk to the person as they are languishing in a bed, not doing much. This can lead to a loss of muscle tone referred to as “pyjama paralysis” which can happen surprisingly quickly with older people. They could also be at risk of picking up an infection.

Being out of hospital is good for the individual and other people who need that acute bed.

The whole system in Barnsley is geared up to help people be independent where possible and health services in the community can help monitor people to make sure they are well.

Not everyone in hospital needs a social worker to help them after their stay but generally it’s the elderly population that use this service – an increasing population – and it takes them longer to recover after an admission; they might also  have other long term  health conditions which means they have other issues to consider. For an older person a simple trip, slip or fall can be quite serious and can lead to a change from being fully  independent to needing quite a lot of support.

The hospital social work team are based at Barnsley hospital and when someone is approaching discharge, the team helps them look at their choices are. The majority of the work they do is talking to patients about help to maintain their independence at home – for example support to regain the ability to manage things for themselves; a home care service to help with getting up, dressed and washed; or a call alarm to summon help in an emergency.

The team might suggest that an individual may need to go into a care home for a short stay but the aim is to get people back into their own home and back to their own lives as quickly as possible. The social workers work in partnership with the council’s aids and adaptations team and the re-ablement team to make sure that to make sure that a patient’s home circumstances are as good as they can be.

Around 150 people a month currently see the hospital social work team  receiving a range of services from  of information and advice through to arranging complicated care packages.

Cllr Margaret Bruff, Cabinet Spokesperson for People (Safeguarding) said: “Our job is to enable people to return home, as soon as it is safe to do so.

“Our social care workers will advocate individuals’ wishes and support them the best they can to manage at home, wherever this is possible.

“Barnsley’s performance in relation to supporting people on discharge from hospital s among the best in the country.”

The most recent Local Account shows that the proportion of older people (65 and over) in Barnsley who were still at home 91 days after discharge from hospital into reablement/rehabilitation services was 84.1 percent. This means that Barnsley is performing better than both similar councils (81.4 per cent) and the England average of 82.5 per cent.

An example of how the team works to get people back home following a stay in hospital can been seen through the story of Betty and Jack, who have been married for 50 years.

Jack has lung disease and gets out of breath easily. Betty looks after the home and helps him with washing and dressing. Recently, Betty tripped over the rug at home and broke her leg. When she was ready to go home from hospital, she needed help with her personal care; meal preparation and keeping the house clean until her leg healed. Jack also needed support. The hospital social worker met Betty on the ward and reassured her that support could be put in place, while she and Jack needed it. Together, they worked out a support plan. This included her daughter helping with the cleaning, and her friend picking up some of their shopping. A homecare agency also visited three times a day to support both Jack and Betty. Betty was able to go home from hospital without delay. After Betty’s leg healed, the Independent Living at Home Service got involved to help Betty get her confidence and strength back. Betty and Jack are now back to their normal routine. Betty knows that if she needs extra support again, she can contact adult social care for advice and help.

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