The implementation of the National Health Service Plan for the UK will see an expansion of services for intermediate care. Such services are usually targeted at older people and aim to: prevent ‘avoidable’ admissions to acute inpatient care; facilitate the timely discharge of patients from acute inpatient care; promote patient rehabilitation. A range of services might fall under the banner of intermediate care. They are usually delivered in patients' homes or in non-acute institutions. This paper describes an evaluation of a multidisciplinary Rapid Response Team (RRT). This service aimed to provide a home based alternative to care previously provided in an acute hospital bed which was acceptable to patients and carers and which maintained clinical care standards. The service was provided for the population of Hereford, a rural town in the middle of England.
A mixed-method descriptive design using quantitative and qualitative techniques was used to monitor: the characteristics of service users, the types and amounts of care received, any ‘adverse’ events arising from that care, and the acceptability of the service to patients and carers. A collaborative approach involving key stakeholders allowed appropriate data to be gathered from patient case notes, RRT staff, local health and social care providers, and patients and their carers. A suite of self-completed questionnaires was, therefore, designed to capture study data on patients and activities of care, and workshops and semi-structured interview schedules used to obtain feedback from users and stakeholders.
Service users (231) were elderly (mean age 75.9), from three main diagnostic categories (respiratory conditions 19.0%, heart/stroke 16.2%, falls 13.4%), with the majority (57.0%) having both medical and social care needs. All patients received care at home (mean duration 5.6 days) with only 5.7% of patients having to be re-admitted to acute care. Overall, patients and carers had positive attitudes to the new service but some expressed concerns about their ability to influence the choice of care option (24.1% and 25.0% of patients and carers, respectively), whilst 22.7% of carers were concerned about the quality of information about care.
Both the nature of schemes for intermediate care, and the policy context in which they are introduced, mean that pragmatic methodologies are often required to evaluate their impacts. Unfortunately, this need for pragmatism can then mean that it is difficult to reach definitive conclusions about the merits of schemes. However, the findings of this evaluation suggest that the Rapid Response Team provided an ‘acceptable’ alternative to an extended period of care in an acute setting. Such schemes may have relevance beyond the NHS of the UK as a means of providing a more appropriate and cost efficient match between patients' needs for care, the types of care provided, and the place in which care is provided.