The Department of Health is standing by a scheme to keep frail and elderly patients out of hospital, despite a critical study which cast doubt on the model's effectiveness.

The Department of Health is standing by a scheme to keep frail and elderly patients out of hospital, despite a critical study which cast doubt on the model's effectiveness.

Case-management scheme Evercare was piloted across nine primary care trusts from 2003.

Advanced practice nurses assessed high-risk patients aged over 65 and drew up care plans agreed by patients, GPs and other staff.

However, a study of the pilot sites by Manchester University found that the scheme had failed to reduce emergency admissions, emergency hospital stays and death rates.

But health minister Rosie Winterton has highlighted the scheme's success in identifying more patients with complex needs, which she conceded may have led to more hospital admissions.

The firm behind Evercare said the research was flawed. 'It is a very weak study,' claimed UnitedHealth Europe chief executive Dr Richard Smith.