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Opinion

To end avoidable hospital admissions prevention is the key

In the House of Lords, John Bird highlights how social enterprises providing social care could help unlock the NHS admissions crisis

Big Issue founder John Bird has highlighted in the House of Lords how social enterprises that provide social care can help to prevent pressure piling up on the NHS because of unnecessary emergency admissions.

In an Oral Question in the House of Lords yesterday (Wednesday) Baron Bird, who is a crossbench peer, pointed out that recent figures from the National Audit Office showed one-quarter of emergency admissions to hospital are avoidable, and could be dealt with through community care before it becomes an issue for the NHS to sort out.

He said: “The recent report of the National Audit Office stated that nearly 25 per cent of people who go into hospital do so in an avoidable situation, which could be sorted out in the community. This is a clear case of why we need more prevention.

“What extra thinking and resources will the Government bring into the community so that we do not have the ridiculous situation of such people going into hospital, where we have the problem of a shortage of nurses and all the other things that knock on?”

Lord O’Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, responded: “The noble Lord makes an important point. It was good to study the report and the noble Lord is right about avoidable hospital admissions.

“Two changes are happening. One is GP extended access, which now has 95 per cent coverage across [England] – that is, evenings, weekends and so on – as primary care. We also have interesting results coming from the new models of care programme.

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“I highlight one that is happening in mid-Nottinghamshire. It is called PRISM and it is a virtual ward for at-risk patients which enables multidisciplinary teams to look at vulnerable people before they come to hospital. It has reduced A&E attendance for those aged over 80 by 17 per cent, which is significant. It is precisely this kind of thing that will make the difference that we need.”

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Baron Bird has been a vocal advocate for prevention to reduce the need for emergency care – “a fence at the top of the cliff rather than an ambulance at the bottom”. And Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue, helps support social enterprises that provide care and support in the community, including Sandwell Community Caring Trust, which saved its health authority £2.3 million in the last year alone, and Spiral Health Community Interest Company, which delivers a range of services in Lancashire including intermediate care and rehabilitation that help keep people out of acute hospital settings.

Read more about social care organisations supported by Big Issue Invest here.

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