A new five-day training course for nurses working in care homes helped save an estimated £72,000 from reduced hospital admissions, according to those behind the pilot scheme.
The initiative, which was funded by Health Education England, saw 30 registered nurses working in care homes undertake a course in clinical skills.
“About 50% of the homes saw significant savings because they had such a turnover of staff”
Spread over about six weeks, the training included techniques like venipuncture, fluid replacement, wound care, pain management and end of life care.
The course was created by Care Careers, an organisation working to develop career paths for nurses and nursing assistants working with older people in the care sector.
Backed by Health Education Kent, Surrey and Sussex, it was delivered in conjunction with Surrey County Council and the Guildford and Waverley Clinical Commissioning Group.
Many of the nurses involved had come from abroad to work in the UK, noted Care Careers managing director Justine Cawley.
“There is a tremendous shortage of nurses in the care sector generally, so we are seeing a lot of foreign nurses coming in,” she said. “They don’t necessarily know the system and are not necessarily trained in the same way.
Exclusive: Care home nurse training cuts acute admissions
“In Romania, for example, things like Stomas and PEG feeding would be tasks for a specialist nurse, so Romanian nurses on our course didn’t know how to do it,” Ms Cawley told Nursing Times.
She said nurses were keen to learn new skills and the course had made a tangible difference to patient care and hospital referrals.
“Nurses were saying that, instead of referring six patients, they weren’t referring anybody,” she said.
She estimated the course had already saved roughly £72,000 in reduced hospital admissions and had the potential to save hundreds of thousands more if rolled out to more care settings.
Ms Cawley said the biggest benefits from the training had been seen in care homes with a high staff turnover.
“The ones that had a stable staff saw fewer savings because they knew the system and it was more of a refresher for them,” she said. “But about 50% of the homes saw significant savings because they had such a turnover of staff.”
Meanwhile – as part of the same pilot – 15 nurses and care assistants undertook a five-day “re-ablement” course to help speed the recovery of elderly people who had been in hospital or seriously unwell.
This course was delivered jointly by a physiotherapist and occupational therapist.
“It also jacks up the skills of care assistants and gives them more of a career pathway”
One care home manager interviewed as part of evaluation of the scheme said the re-ablement course had saved £24,960 in agency costs, because of increased job satisfaction among staff who spent less time off sick as a result.
Care Careers is now talking to a number of CCGs across Surrey about running further courses and also hopes to roll-out the training to other parts of the country.
The organisation is working with Care England on efforts to professionalise elderly care and create new roles and qualifications, including the role of “care practitioner”.
Ms Cawley said one of the key lessons to emerge from the pilot was a need to train nurses and care workers together, especially when it came to clinical skills.
“When you have such acute staff shortages then training care assistants to do some tasks under supervision can help lift the burden on nurses,” she said. “It also jacks up the skills of care assistants and gives them more of a career pathway.”
She said it was vital to ensure better training and support for nurses working in social care, as they often did not get the same level of professional development as colleagues in the NHS, despite working with highly vulnerable patients with complex needs.
“Because they are not in the mainstream, they often get left out and miss out on funding for things like continuous professional development,” she said. “It’s great Health Education England have recognised that and seen the value in this project.”