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Adapting to the pandemic – Creation of the Discharge Team

Posted: 28/08/20

There are many ways in which teams have had to adapt to new ways of working during the pandemic. The creation of a new Discharge Team at Walkergate Park is one innovative example, going from concept to reality in just a week.

In normal circumstances a person who needed it would flow through the different services in the North East’s well-established neuro rehab pathway on their journey back into the community.

As the threat of the pandemic grew it soon became clear that Walkergate Park would be unable to safely discharge people because of new measures and a solution needed to be found.

Usually ward staff and therapists would carry out home visits to assess the suitability of a property – ordering and fitting grab rails, making adaptations and arranging handovers with families and care teams to ensure a smooth transition. However due to the risk of staff bringing COVID-19 on to the ward another solution had to be found.

It wasn’t long before a plan was designed to ensure ward-based staff remained on the wards to look after inpatients and a new Discharge Team was created to plan and follow up the community aspects of the proposed discharge. The Discharge Team was made using staff from community services whose workload had decreased due to cancelled appointments.

Neil Brownlee, Long Term Conditions Lead at Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), led the team. He said: “The impact of moderate to severe brain injury on individuals and their families can be catastrophic. The road ahead can involve lengthy periods of neuro rehab in hospital and community settings.
“We needed to ensure that the pandemic caused as little disruption as possible to what is already an extremely turbulent time in people’s lives.”

The new team took responsibility for a person’s transition into the community, with technology playing a key role. Staff were able to make contact with patients and families, and meetings over Teams allowed them to reflect on patient care.

The team remained operational for 10 weeks, supporting 20 people to return to their homes or some kind of supported living or residential care in that time.

Neil added: “It was a privilege to support and supervise a great team of professionals who came together in such challenging circumstances. We have learned so much from this experience; it has enabled us to work more efficiently and work more collaboratively between community and inpatient teams.”

The pandemic has presented major challenges to the provision of health and social care. Staff have been reflecting on the Discharge Team’s impact and how learnings can be taken forward.

Walkergate Park Centre for Neurorehabilitation and Neuropsychiatry is a service for people with a disability caused by injury or disease affecting the brain, spinal cord or muscles. One of the most advanced centres of its kind, the goal is to maximise people’s potential for independence.

It is part of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), a leading provider of mental health and disability services.