Red Bag scheme

Red Bag Scheme Extended

Thousands of care home residents will benefit from an innovation designed to make emergency hospital visits safer and speed up discharge after health and care chiefs agreed to extend the innovative Red Bag scheme across the whole of south London.

The news was revealed this past Monday on United Nation’s International Day of Older Persons and means older residents enjoy a more personal and seamless health and care service.

Started three years ago, Sutton Vanguard’s Hospital Transfer Pathway Red Bag ensures key info such as existing medical conditions and other clinical information is communicated and helps ensure residents return to their care home as promptly as possible once hospital treatment is completed. On average 2.4 bed days are saved per Red Bag used.

Developed by NHS and care home staff, the Red Bag has already been adopted across 11 London boroughs and Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group is planning to roll it out across the borough in November. NHS England unveiled a Red Bag scheme toolkit in June to encourage all areas of the country to adopt the scheme.

Care homes across south London, holding more than 13,000 care home beds between them, have committed to taking part in the Red Bag – a simple innovation which ensures records and personal belongings are kept safe when a care home resident is transferred into hospital. The London Ambulance Service transferred more than 12,000 care home residents to hospital in an emergency last year in south London.

Under the new scheme, when a patient is taken into hospital in an emergency they have a Red Bag to take with them. The bag contains:

  • General health information, including on any existing medical conditions
  • Medication information so ambulance and hospital staff know immediately what medication they are taking
  • Personal belongings (such as clothes for day of discharge, glasses, hearing aid, dentures or other items)

The Red Bag also clearly identifies a patient as being a care home resident and provides hospital staff with the information they need to speed up clinical decisions.

Since its introduction in Sutton, the Red Bag, which has been used with care home residents 2,000 times in south London since April 2017, has also stopped patients losing personal items such as dentures, glasses and hearing aids worth £290,000 in a year. The potential for the innovation is significant with a predicted two million more people aged over 75 in ten years’ time. This populace is also spending more years in ill-health than ever before.

Caroline Dinenage, Care Minister, said: “The Red Bag is a great innovation that helps link up health and care services for older people, so it’s fantastic news that the whole of south London is now committed to using it. Not only is this more efficient – saving valuable resources – but it leads to a much better experience for patients leaving hospital when their treatment has finished. It’s encouraging to see the scheme being rolled out even further across the country as we move towards our ambition of joined up care that is centred around the individual.

Meanwhile, Tara Donnelly, Chief Executive of the Health Innovation Network, commented: “Our hospitals provide great care, but no one wants to spend any longer there than they need to and being transferred from a care home to hospital in an emergency can feel traumatic. That’s why the Red Bag is a great example of a simple idea with a big impact.”

Find out more about the Red Bag scheme on the NHS England website.

Don Shenker

Don is a Project Manager for the Healthy Ageing Clinical Theme’s and leads on the HIN’s Enhanced Health in Care Homes Framework and vanguard programme. He has a background in substance misuse, research and policy. Don is working on spread and adoption of the Hospital Transfer Pathway (Red Bag) and medicine optimisation in care homes.

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