by Laura Dobie, Knowledge and Information Skills Specialist
In December 2017 some of our team went to Oban to learn about how partnership working and a focus on prevention and early intervention is having a positive impact on outcomes for frail older people.
The Oban multidisciplinary team
It is 20th December, and the meeting room at Lorn Medical Centre is packed with colleagues from across health, social care and the third sector. This is what it is like every Wednesday morning, except for the festive touch of the mince pies on the table. It is amazing to see the turnout for this frailty multidisciplinary team meeting, and to learn more about people’s backgrounds, and the skills and knowledge that they bring to the table.
The team meets every Wednesday morning to discuss patients with mild, moderate and severe frailty, and this work is bottom-up and clinician-led. The team is truly multidisciplinary, with representation from social care and the third sector: in addition to GPs, nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists and dietitians, a social worker, an exercise professional and the centre manager from North Argyll Carers Centre join the weekly meetings. The team are also supported by an administrative assistant and the practice manager, who runs the electronic frailty index (eFI) on the Vision system. They have also been looking at SPARRA and high health gain data.
The team reported that they get together every week to share information in this way because they find it valuable, not because they have been told to work in this way.
‘The hour spent is much more valuable time spent than the previous way of working where it could take you all week to get in touch with someone. Now you can have that face-to-face conversation and many issues are solved more quickly. It has prevented duplication of referrals and assessments.’
Derek Laidler, Physiotherapy Team Lead, gave us an overview of the Oban reablement project.
Reablement services in Oban are delivered by Healthy Options, a social enterprise. Healthy Options offer interventions for people who are pre-frail. People who are at risk are referred to Healthy Options, and the aim is to build resilience and support the person to prevent decline. The project was a response to funding constraints in primary care and the pressures of increasingly complex patients and an ageing population. It is a demand-reducing model, rather than capacity-increasing.
Healthy Options used to be very much based in Atlantis Leisure Centre. However, there are now classes in villages that people are able to attend. The support offered is both physical and social, and deals with the whole person. This collaboration with the third sector has been in place in the area for a number of years.
Staff use the eFI and the Edmonton Frail Scale to identify people with frailty and direct them towards appropriate support. 100 people have been identified through case finding, and people are referred into the project through clinician concern.
The Oban Living Well initiative is a mild frailty rehabilitation and reablement approach, and the Active and Independent Living Programme has been a driver for the programme.
Derek explained that most physiotherapy referrals are made at a crisis point, which is reactive, and that the benefits are not as long lasting as intervening at an earlier stage: if people go on an exercise programme to maintain the ability to walk 400m, they retain this ability for two and a half years, whereas the benefits of intervening at a later stage and helping people to regain the ability to transfer themselves from the toilet only last six to eight weeks.
The project staff consider that we should be intervening before people are on the Lifecurve, and have produced a list of activities above the Lifecurve, where people should be targeted with early interventions.
Healthy Options would intervene when people are struggling to run half a mile, or run to catch a bus, and physios would intervene when people are having difficulties climbing stairs and getting up from the floor. There is still a role for Healthy Options with very frail patients, but it is limited. However, they can make people who are mildly frail better.
Derek presented some case studies, which demonstrated how exercise programmes delivered by Healthy Options are reversing people’s frailty scores and improving their health and wellbeing. One older gentleman has regained the ability to take the bus independently and engage in social activities again, while an older lady who was afraid of falling now has increased confidence and improved gait and posture after completing a 12-week exercise programme and attending strength and balance classes.
Lianne McInally from the team visited a lady who had been though the programme recently. The lady had a one-to-one assessment by a specialist physiotherapist and support from an exercise instructor to complete a home exercise programme based on OTAGO. The lady reported that she had made improvements in her strength and balance and noted a difference getting in and out of her chair. She also reported increased confidence walking further distances, and has agreed to attend the local leisure exercise class now that she was more confident to go outdoors. A buddy system exists, whereby the individual is paired with someone else from the class. Motivation to attend classes can be poor, particularly when a person is not comfortable initiating conversation, and the buddy system appears to make a difference, encouraging people to attend.
Moderate frailty project
Pauline Jespersen, Advanced GP Nurse, described the moderate/severe frailty project, which is running from October 2017 to March 2018. It is being delivered by four GPs (three qualified GP trainers). The project lead is a district nurse, and a physio, OT and pharmacist are also involved in the project. So far they have scanned 80 patients.
Their referral pathway takes a whole-system approach:
- Edmonton frail scale score 0-5 – Healthy Options
- Edmonton 6-7 vulnerable, 8-9 mild frailty – physio, Lorn and Islands Hospital reablement team
- Edmonton 10-11 moderate frailty – Lorn Medical Centre.
The team are aware of all the options in the third sector and can pass on a referral, where appropriate. Their assessment form records people’s conditions, social circumstances and medication, and they are also using the DeJong Gierveld Loneliness Scale as part of the assessment process.
They have a meeting at 9am on a Wednesday, where they discuss the patients that were identified the week before. The frailty team then have a huddle to allocate work. The team double up to mentor staff and support them with enhanced assessment. Visits for enhanced assessment are an hour minimum.
In the afternoon they have a feedback huddle. In some cases they may need to do de-prescribing, and pharmacy assistants help to manage the change and take away old medication. They have been carrying out evaluation with patients and staff. There have been clinical and MDT tutorials, and nurses are doing formal educational modules. Oban has lost a lot of advanced nurses in recent years, so upskilling staff has been an important part of the project.
The process is as follows:
- Advanced clinical assessment
- Edmonton frail scale
- Polypharmacy review
- Loneliness questionnaire
- Checking ACP and DNACPR are in place
- MDT discussion of findings
Although the team have seen 80 patients so far, they reported that there have been a lot more than 80 contacts. The initial assessment that is conducted is accepted by everyone – they do not have different groups of professionals coming in and conducting their own assessments. Secondary care is involved in the management of moderate and severe frailty, and advanced nurses work across primary and secondary care. There is an emphasis on home care and avoiding hospital admission.
We then went on to visit Healthy Options to learn more about their work. This social enterprise clearly demonstrates how a community-owned resource can meet public health needs. In addition to supporting the reablement programme, they also support other initiatives within the community.
Roy Clunie, one of the directors, observed that there is a growing number of people with chronic conditions, and many of these people’s conditions could be managed or improved through a change to a healthy lifestyle.
Healthy Options was established by the community, and staff are drawn from the health, business, fitness and community sectors. A public health dietitian, Jacqualin Barron is seconded to them one day a week. Healthy Options, Atlantis Leisure Centre and health professionals all work in partnership. The Healthy Options staff are highly qualified, and are entitled to attend NHS training courses.
We went on a short walk from the Healthy Options offices to Atlantis Leisure Centre, where we were able to see some of their staff working with clients. One older gentleman was working on the treadmill and cross trainer in the gym, under the instruction of trainer Kirsty, while two ladies were doing a seated exercise class in the dance studio. All of them were very enthusiastic about the support that they were receiving, and the beneficial impact that it has had on their health.
Healthy Options have worked with Atlantis Leisure Centre to make the gym more welcoming for people who are not typical gym goers. The centre manager removed some of the exercise bikes from the gym to create more space and make it easier for people with a high BMI to use the facilities. The consultation process is co-produced, and people can choose the activities that interest them, whether this is swimming, classes or going on the rowing machine. They offer supervised gym sessions and a healthy living outreach programme at the MS Centre.
In addition to delivering a reablement programme and self-management support, Healthy Options is also working with vulnerable social housing tenants, and they have a part-time health liaison officer. They are also working with partners on a healthy village pilot in Taynuilt, with falls prevention, Healthy Options exercise and classes, tai chi and a self-management class.
An example to develop in other areas?
It is clear that the Oban frailty project’s prevention and early intervention approach is having a positive impact on people with frailty, helping them to maintain their independence and keep up with all the activities that they enjoy, from singing in the choir to walking football. By working together across the whole system in a genuine partnership, and involving a third sector partner that is able to offer tailored support for people in the early stages of frailty, Oban is meeting the challenges of population ageing head on, improving the health of its inhabitants, and supporting people to live as well as they can at home, for as long as they can.