Pilot project highlights opportunities for the future redesign of Health and Social Care services

An initiative to introduce Augmented Care into the local community has succeeded in assisting patients with recovery and re-ablement, according to research conducted by academics from Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Dundee*.

The project was based on action by Forres Council to buy apartments in a block owned by Hanover Housing Association and introduce a new model of integrated health and social care, following the closure of Leanchoil Community Hospital.

The research began after the initiative to make the sole inpatient care provider in Forres through the Forres Varis Court development, which had been running for a year.

The idea was to provide 24/7 nursing care to five of the Varis Court development units. Unlike any traditional hospital ward, the Augmented Care Units all have two bedrooms and a kitchen in order to assist the patients with re-ablement and recovery – two of the key aims of the test site.

Throughout the research project, nurses were to adopt the Buurtzorg Principle – a more people-centred approach – in terms of how they organise themselves and deliver care and support to the Augmented Care Units in the development. The researchers found that further development of Buurtzorg, and a better understanding of this less-medicalised model, might enable a quicker flow through the integration of health and social care.

The research involved semi-structured interviews with 15 key stakeholders of the project, including some of these nurses, by Dr Stacey Bushfield. The interviews were recorded and transcribed in order to produce thematic and stakeholder analysis. The aim of the analysis was to identify the perceptions of the key stakeholders about the effectiveness of the project, with regard to the Buurtzorg principles as well as wider theories of teamwork. Following this, Professor Nic Beech & Professor Graeme Martin then undertook an in-depth qualitative analysis of the perceptions from key stakeholders.

The results show that the more person centred approach, community setting and flexibility offered through this management strategy were supported by the majority of stakeholders, highlighting that the pilot strategy was successful.

Following the research project by the University Academics, the new model at Forres (Varis Court) has been backed by the Moray Integration Joint Board (IJB) due to the Augmented Care Units having a positive impact on both patients and their families by promoting independence, preventing avoidable crisis and supporting the end to end care of patients. As well as this the findings of the financial evaluation carried out by the university academics indicated that this new model of care has begun to show signs of a positive impact on emergency hospital admission rates.

The Board have approved continued funding into the Varis Court Development for the next twelve months following its success.

* ‘A stakeholder analysis of key participants involved in the Forres (Varis Court) Health and Social Care Pilot Project’, 2019, by Dr Stacey Bushfield and Professor Brian Howieson (Edinburgh Napier University School of Business) and Professor Nic Beech and Professor Graeme Martin (University of Dundee School of Business).

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