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Easier access to more help

NHS staff working within the community will soon be able to help their patients access a wide range of additional health and social care support thanks to a new system designed by the voluntary sector to make it quicker and easier to share information.

Community health services in Suffolk have signed up to the ‘Warm Handover’ online referral system. It allows staff to make multiple referrals at the click of a button to any other organisation which is enrolled with the scheme, which includes the police, Suffolk Family Carers, Age UK Suffolk, Suffolk County Council and Suffolk Mind.

This means a community nurse visiting a patient for the first time would fill in just one online form to alert Suffolk Family Carers that extra support was needed, for example, while also asking social services to carry out a carer’s assessment.

Designed to streamline referrals, reduce duplication and increase convenience for people, the scheme is one of the first examples of initiatives taking place across Suffolk to join up care more closely, support prevention work and tackle rising demand.

Two alliances have been set up to drive this work, which are made up of Ipswich Hospital in the east and West Suffolk Hospital in the west, with Suffolk County Council, Suffolk GP Federation and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust spanning the whole county. These providers are working closely together to place the patient at the centre of care, share good practice and improve quality while making the best use of limited resources.

Kirsten Alderson, chief executive of Suffolk Family Carers, said: “Warm Handover encourages a wide range of health, social care and voluntary organisations to share vital information and join up the way they work for the benefit of local people.

“By filling in just one form to prompt multiple referrals, staff will reduce duplication while also increasing convenience for patients and the public, who frequently tell us they do not want to repeat the same information several times to several different professionals.”

Sarah Hedges, integrated transformation lead with the alliances, said: “We are looking forward to being part of the scheme, which is already being used by organisations such as Suffolk Libraries and the Department of Work and Pensions. 

“By working together in this way, we can also make sure people receive the full range of help and support they need to maintain their health and independence for longer, in turn reducing their reliance on stretched NHS resources.”=

Community health staff will begin using Warm Handover later this autumn.

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