A pilot scheme that has supported thousands of patients at Wrexham Maelor Hospital over the winter is to continue until later this year.
Red Cross staff and volunteers, who have also been based at Glan Clwyd Hospital, have offered assistance to emergency department staff and patients as part of a new initiative to ease winter pressures.
The charity is helping patients to collect their medication, equipment and test results, as well as accompanying patients to other hospital departments such as X-ray and offering emotional support.
Volunteers have also helped to organise transport for patients back home.
The hospital services were put in place as part of the Welsh Government’s £20m integrated winter delivery plan and were due to run until the end of March.
Yesterday the Welsh Government announced that the scheme, which has helped emergency departments across seven Welsh hospitals, will continue between April and September 2019.
In total the pilot scheme has helped 25,000 patients since December 2018.
Speaking yesterday, Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said that the pilot scheme had been well received by frontline staff and patients.
“I am very pleased to announce we will be extending this pilot to help us understand whether an assisted discharge service from Emergency Departments would add benefit all year round,” said Mr Gething.
“The service has been especially helpful for people who are socially isolated, those at greater risk from harm because of substance misuse and for people who have recently suffered bereavement.
“We will be commencing a competitive tender process as soon as possible to enable other third sector organisations to have an opportunity to deliver the service, with one eye on planning for autumn and winter 2019/20.”
Data given by the British Red Cross in January 2019 showed that volunteers at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital had helped 2,500 patients during the two month period.
Across the two north Wales sites 5,400 patients have received non-medical support from the charity.
Chief Executive of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Gary Doherty said: “We have developed a successful working partnership with the Red Cross who have been providing non-medical support in our Emergency Departments this winter.
“We welcome news that Welsh Government will be extending the NHS Wales pilot at our hospitals until the summer.
“The team of Red Cross staff and volunteers provide a great service and we’d like to thank them for their continued support.”
Kate Griffiths, director of independent living and crisis response for the Red Cross in Wales added: “The difference made through simple, kind acts cannot be underestimated, for example listening to someone’s concerns as they prepare to leave hospital, helping them get the shopping in when they get home – Red Cross staff and volunteers are there for reassurance and support, empowering people to take their first steps on the road back to independence.
“We believe the role of the voluntary sector is key in helping health and care services to support patients, relieving pressure on the system and giving peace of mind to doctors and nursing staff that patients are being cared for as they move between home and hospital.
“We’re really pleased that the success of our winter pressures services means there will be more opportunities for the voluntary sector to provide this essential support.”
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