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Health Minister Caroline Dinenage heard how NHS and fire service staff are working together in new ways to care for patients when she visited a community care team in Hampshire.

Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust’s community nursing team (part of the wider Integrated Care Team, or ICT) showed how they work from a local hub to care for patients in their own homes to keep them out of hospital for longer or allow them to leave wards earlier with the right support.

The Farnborough ICT began working from Rushmoor Fire Station two years ago as it was a good location with the right office space. However, the two organisations quickly realised they could work more closely to achieve their shared aims of keeping frail and vulnerable local people safe and well in their own homes.

Fran Campbell, operational manager for community services, said: “The whole thing grew organically and probably would never have happened if they had not been based in the same building.

“We found there is so much we can work together on, for example, joint falls prevention and helping identify vulnerable people who can benefit from fire prevention or community care.

“People’s needs are often complex and serving them via individual organisations can be inefficient and time consuming. We have been able to break down many of those barriers by bringing our processes together. This has really enhanced what we can do for community patients.”

Many of the joint working and escalation processes have now been formalised and are proving very successful. It is one of the programmes that has helped to halt the annual rise in emergency attendances at Frimley Park Hospital for the first time.

Ms Dinenage, Minister of State for Adult Social Care, heard a case study in which an elderly lady fell at home at a time when hospital and ambulance services were fully stretched. A community nurse attended but as the lady was not badly injured she wasn’t classed as an emergency. The nurse feared the lady could develop pressure sores by the time ambulances arrived, leading to a long A&E wait and hospital admission.

Instead the nurse was able to call Rushmoor fire colleagues to return the lady safely to bed where she was assessed as not requiring hospital care – much better for her and for the overstretched ambulance and hospital service.

The ICT is part of a network of new ‘hubs’ working across the north east Hampshire area that help to keep frail people healthy and independent in their homes for longer. Setting them up was made possible by funding from the Vanguard programme, which saw selected areas given extra resources to try out new ways to join up health and social care delivered by different organisations.

Ms Dinenage said: “I was delighted to meet the Integrated Care Team from Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, who are pioneers of innovative integrated care.

“Their partnership with their local fire service, Hampshire Fire and Rescue, is an excellent example of how the health service can work with the community to identify and support vulnerable people. Their work sets an example for the whole of our health system.”

Ms Dinenage is picture at Rushmoor Fire Station in the back row (second right) with fire officers, the community team and managers