Older patients should have a named nurse or doctor responsible for their care in the community, health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced last week.
The move is intended to ensure “accountability is clear” and forms part of a range of government proposals aimed at improving care for older people.
In a speech to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the NHS, Mr Hunt said: “The challenge of our time is to make radical improvements so that the NHS’ heaviest users – our most vulnerable and elderly – stay in good health and out of hospital.
“Too often these people have fallen through the cracks – ending up in hospital not by design, but simply because they can’t get the care they need elsewhere,” he said. “That’s why we are asking the NHS to make one clinician responsible for their care in the community.”
It follows a speech made by Mr Hunt last month in which he said the name of the nurse or doctor responsible for a patient’s care in hospital should be written above their bed and which is already being piloted at several London acute trusts.
The Royal College of Nursing said it welcomed the idea of providing a named clinician for patients being cared for in the community.
RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “Community nurses are already essential co-ordinators for patients, and give advice and signposting to other services which may be required.”
But he added: “It is vital that the named clinicians in this role have the capacity and the organisational support to join up services so that patients experience a seamless journey from home to hospital and back again.”
Mike Hobday, director of policy and research at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We welcome plans to make the care of older people with long-term conditions more co-ordinated by giving them a named clinician when they leave hospital.”
A consultation on the government’s proposals – called the Vulnerable Older People’s Plan – was also launched on Friday. It is part of the latest NHS Mandate, the document setting out the government’s goals and targets for the health service for 2014-15.
The Department of Health will consult on proposals for the Vulnerable Older People’s Plan over the summer, with a final version due to be published in the autumn.
Mr Hunt also paid tribute to the NHS, saying it had “done more to improve people’s lives that any other institution in our history”.
“We express our thanks to the millions of hard-working NHS staff who literally save lives round the clock. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude,” he said.
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