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Red bags support better communication between hospitals and care homes

Care homes and hospitals across County Durham & Darlington are working together to make sure that when residents need to be admitted to hospital, the transition between the two places of care is as smooth as possible - particularly for people with dementia or who, for some other reason, can't easily communicate.

Red Bag

Distinctive red bags are now used to take essential information, medication and other items such as glasses and hearing aids, to hospital.  The bag travels with the patient, so there's no delay.  Some care homes are also using the red bags to send in vital information with patients having an outpatient appointment.

Norman Devlin, senior nurse for integrated discharge at County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said, "Being admitted to hospital is a worrying time for anyone and the adjustment can be difficult - but the experience can be much harder for patients with dementia.  We're constantly looking for ways to make things run as smoothly for them as possible avoiding the distress even minor changes can cause.  The red bags are also great for our hospital teams who have vital information at their fingertips."   

Carol Jones, manager at Lindisfarne Care Home in Newton Aycliffe, part of Gainford Care Homes, who has been using the red bags for several months, said, "They're definitely helping improve communication between ourselves and the hospital teams.  In particular, I've noticed a reduction in the phone calls we get asking for, or checking, information when a patient has perhaps been transferred from the emergency department to a ward. Now, much of the information clinicians need, such as medication charts, travels with the patient in the red bag.

"Around 85% of our residents have dementia and we're able to give them most of the care they need here at Lindisfarne.  But we have certain documents completed in case admission is needed.  These include the patient's individual, 'This is me' leaflet which includes details such as the name the patient prefers to be called by, which can be different from their given name and the extent to which they're able to care for themselves on a daily basis.  The leaflet also details if there's anything that upsets or worries the patient, their preferred routines and whether they have any specific dietary needs or restrictions.  It also has details of the patient's background, family, friends and their current and past interests, jobs and places they've lived.  The red bag also includes next of kin details."

Norman Devlin added, "We work closely with care homes anyway but are always looking for ways to simplify and streamline processes so the care and experience we give patients are the best they can be.  The red bags are proving very effective."


Published 5th August 2019

'I have to compliment everyone on their pleasant persona and their expertise and knowledge. By the end of the 5 days, I did not feel as though I had been in a hospital ward and was very relaxed.'

Patient, Ward 16 Orthopaedics, University Hospital of North Durham