Based on Sutton’s Red Bag initiative, this NHS England / NHS Improvement Quick Guide aims to help local health and social care systems to develop effective and efficient arrangements for Hospital Transfer Pathways for care home residents.

At the start of summer 2018, just over 40% of Health and Wellbeing Boards have reported that they have implemented the red bag scheme in their area.

The Quick Guide can be accessed here.  It is supported by a range of good practice example templates and process documents.  It is recommended that the guide is used in conjunction with the Enhanced Health in Care Homes (EHCH) framework which is based on the lessons learned by the 6 EHCH vanguards and highlights the components that have had the highest impact on residents’ quality of care.

Further resources are available via Health Innovation Network

The Quick Guide includes 11 tips for getting started and these are set out below:

  1. Before implementing the Hospital Transfer Pathway, ensure all colleagues are fully engaged.
  2. Speak to your stakeholders, including care homes, local hospital providers (both Acute and Community), community nursing services, the local authority and Ambulance Services.
  3. Use the standard paperwork listed in this guide.
  4. Try to keep consistency to using ‘Red Bags’ as this reduces confusion on wards and other settings where multiple colours may be in use.
  5. Order enough bags per care homes (approximately one per 10 residents) and ensure that the bags are the right size to fit all the required documentation and belongings. Make sure a tracker number is in place for each bag prior to distributing them to care homes.
  6. Don’t overcomplicate this initiative.
  7. Provide training before implementation and consider how new staff will be trained, especially where staff turnover is high.
  8. Monitor and audit, once implemented, to ensure the bags are being used appropriately. Consider using Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycles for improvements.
  9. Keep the health and care system updated using newsletters, presentations, board updates etc.
  10. Ensure that there is an appropriate member of staff available in the care home to receive the person when they return from hospital.
  11. Roll out of ‘Red Bags’ have been most successful in areas that have strong CCG support as they can engage with all partners across the pathway.
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