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Royal Voluntary Service calls on hospital trusts to enhance support for older people

David McCullough, chief executive of RVS, says that support offered by volunteers 'plays a vital role in helping older people settle back at home and can prevent unnecessary readmission'

David McCullough
David McCullough

The older people’s charity Royal Voluntary Service has called on hospital trusts to work with it and other voluntary sector organisations to provide more volunteers and cut the number of older patients being readmitted.

According to research published today by RVS, almost 150,000 older people have no support when they return home from hospital.

RVS said 15.3 per cent of over-75s are readmitted within 28 days of being discharged, putting accident and emergency services under more pressure.

The research, which was carried out by the market research agency PCP on behalf of the charity and involved telephone interviews with 900 people in Britain aged over 75 in February and March, shows that 23 per cent of older people discharged after an overnight stay said they felt "very vulnerable". Eight per cent did not feel able to look after themselves.

RVS, which has 40,000 volunteers working across all its services, said its Home from Hospital scheme, which supports people over 55 for six weeks after a stay in hospital, helped to tackle this problem by providing volunteers who help with nutrition, transport and integration back into the community.

The service enables them to be discharged promptly, reduces isolation and increases independence and overall wellbeing, the charity said.

The charity said it wanted to see more support from NHS trusts for volunteer-led services by charities to tackle such problems.

"RVS is calling on hospital trusts to work with the charity and similar organisations to make the transition from home to hospital easier through schemes such as Home from Hospital," a statement from the charity said.

David McCullough, chief executive of RVS, said: "As well as appropriate medical and social care, support offered by volunteers, such as those that provide our Home from Hospital service, plays a vital role in helping older people settle back at home and can prevent unnecessary readmission back into hospital."

The chief executives body Acevo called on the government last month to provide funding for thousands of extra volunteers who work with older people in hospitals and after they are discharged to reduce pressure on the NHS this winter.

Acevo estimated that its proposals, which would involve expanding services already offered by RVS, Age UK and the British Red Cross, would cost £40m to implement across 53 hospitals in England that need more support.

A spokeswoman for RVS said the charity was still talking to the Department of Health about the support it could provide, but no conclusions had been reached and nothing had been confirmed.

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