A rapid-response team is offering patients support after leaving hospital - or helping them avoid admission altogether. Kaye McIntosh explains

With bed-blocking high on the political agenda, Newcastle City Health trust is keen to tackle what is more politely described as the difficulty of discharging elderly patients who need time to recover from hospital treatment.

The trust's rapid-response team is a nursing service that offers support to patients who need help to go home, or help at home to avoid having to go to hospital.

Liaison sisters assess patients who are referred from accident and emergency departments at Newcastle General Hospital or the Royal Victoria Infirmary.

They also work closely with the general medical and surgical teams at the Royal Victoria and Freeman Hospitals to offer advice and information about community services.

Patients who are worried about going home are offered personal alarms to link them with nursing staff after leaving hospital.

Home nursing is also on offer after patients have been assessed by their GPs as medically stable but needing support.

The service works closely with the city's social services and housing departments as well as with palliative care.

In December, 23 patients were seen on the medical and surgical wards by the liaison sisters. Referrals are running at about 10 a week, although numbers can vary dramatically. l