Headlines: January 6th, 2005

Arrangements for caring for some 17 million people in the UK who suffer from long term conditions which cannot be cured, such as diabetes, asthma, and arthritis, are being radically revised. Health and social services will be closely integrated to provide a seamless service. Currently some people with these conditions, particularly the most vulnerable, go unmonitored and unmanaged until a hospital visit becomes necessary. The new changes are designed to improve the health and quality of life of those with long-term conditions, prevent premature death, and reduce the number of times they have emergency visits to hospital.The changes involve the creation of a role of ‘community matron’, a new type of health professional whose task will be to give one-to-one support to the most vulnerable patients with long-term conditions. They will monitor their patient’s health, anticipate problems and co-ordinate the care and support they need to achieve a better quality of life. The NHS is committed to having 3,000 community matrons in place by March 2007. Multi-professional teams will be set up to identify all of the people in their area with a serious long-term term condition, assess their needs as early as possible, and provide pro-active care before their condition deteriorates.

There will also be a change in focus by educating all people with long-term conditions about their health and encouraging them to manage their own care more effectively.

The NHS is working towards a target of reducing by 5% the number of beds used by emergency in-patient admissions over the next three years. This target will back up the new changes. Currently, 10 per cent of patients who stay in hospital for their care account for 55% of hospital stays.