A NEW service has been introduced at Alton Community Hospital aimed at improving patient confidence and supporting rehabilitation.

While at the same time older people’s charity Friends of the Elderly is flagging up a scheme designed to address problems of social isolation and how to make ends meet.

It is a win-win situation for the town’s older citizens.

The hospital, on Chawton Park Road, has seen the introduction of a new home health co-ordinator working on the community ward, supporting patients with their transition from hospital to home.

The role is being carried out by Kate Harfield, who is employed by Age Concern Hampshire and commissioned by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (Southern Health) to work on Anstey Ward - a GP-led community bed facility for rehabilitation, palliative care, and short-term, in-patient nursing care.

Age Concern Hampshire has an established day centre within Alton Community Hospital, with links now being established between the ward in-patients and the day service, plus other services such as podiatry and the ward hairdresser, branching out in January this year to provide the new home health co-ordinator service.

Now established in the role, Ms Harfield says she is enjoying the work.

“I am delighted to be in this hospital, offering support to patients and working on their confidence,” she said.

“My role is new here, so I’m developing it to suit the local needs of our patients. We have already introduced some new craft sessions and have many more group sessions planned for the near future, including a breakfast club, games sessions, PAT dogs and well-being monitoring.”

And she added: “I am really excited to be involved in such a positive development for the hospital.”

The role of the hospital-to-home co-ordinator has been jointly developed through collaboration between Southern Health and Age Concern Hampshire after it was recognised that more could be done to support patients as they plan to leave hospital.

Supporting transition from hospital to home can improve confidence and address the known issues of social isolation such as low mood, anxiety, and poor compliance with treatment plans.

Alton Community Hospital is just one of a few local hospitals that have teamed up with Age Concern to offer this health co-ordinator role. Similar joint working is happening at Petersfield community and Gosport War Memorial hospitals.

A spokesman for Southern Health said: “It is hoped that by spending time with patients in the hospital, focussing more on their social and emotional skills and understanding, as opposed to the medical aspect of their care which the nurses, therapists and doctors will be doing, the hospital-to-home co-ordinator can make sure people have the support and develop skills and confidence needed to return home and stay home.”

Anstey Ward manager Andrew Marsh is positive about the rewards the new service is bringing to patients.

“We identified the need to shift emphasis from supporting our patients to get well and instead to make sure that they stay well, not just while they are with us but continuing their well-being beyond their hospital stay,”he said.

“This health co-ordinator role is supporting integration into the community, facilitating access to local care groups and improving quality of life, choice and independence for the older people we are working with.

“We hope to see less readmissions as a result.”

And he added: “Kate has been doing a marvellous job so far and long may it continue.”

The planned activities have meant closer working between the adult social care and third sector voluntary organisations in order to support and facilitate the sessions with patients. The team at Anstey ward has been building a network of volunteers to work as befrienders with the patients.

Ms Harfield is also working with the allocated social worker for the ward as well as supporting families to provide reassurance and improve outcomes.

In the meantime, Friends of the Elderly, which supports The Lawn care home in Holybourne and runs other charitable services in the Alton area, is offering one-off grants to help relieve the stress and worry often experienced by older people living on a low income.

Grants can be awarded toward buying and replacing essential household items, small home repairs and mobility adaptations; the cost of equipment to get online, such as tablets, smartphones and broadband connection; and financial support, for example to help with unexpected utility bills, funeral costs and moving fees.

Friends of the Elderly spokesman Lois Walters said: “It is our mission to help as many older people as we can with our grants service. The application process is easy and we have a very understanding and helpful team who can explain how to apply for a grant, either by phone or e-mail.

“Every day we hear heart-warming stories from those who have received a grant from us, often saying how the grant has helped to relieve some of the financial stress and worry they were facing.”

For more details, call 0330 332 1110 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm) or e-mail [email protected].