Older people may need support from a variety of health and social care providers. All these separate organisations can be difficult to navigate, making it hard for people to take control of their own healthcare. The IMPACTAgewell® project brings together a range of different providers to create a holistic model of care. They support older people to understand and navigate the health and social care services that they need, empowering them to take control.
Our joined-up programme reduced people’s isolation and loneliness, helped people to access the right services for them and empowered them to take control of their own healthcare – and it did so in a more cost-effective way than existing approaches
It can be very difficult to find your way around all of the different health and social care organisations that are available, especially as people grow older and increasingly need a range of varying services. These services don’t usually work together, creating a confusing landscape for people to navigate with many different points of contact.
We knew that older people needed support and advice on all sorts of different issues, and that people in our area were disconnected from their health and wellbeing as a result of the difficulties in navigating these systems.
We developed the IMPACTAgewell® project in Mid and East Antrim to bring together these diverse providers and support older people in accessing the healthcare and help they need. We wanted people to have more control over their way forward in life, and to help them be more empowered as to what they want and what matters to them.
The Dunhill Medical Trust supported the development and evaluation of the pilot phase of this service. The DMT has been a huge support in every way, not just financial, and their advice in the early days and close work with the project was so critical to its success.
This now means that not only can we show the impact that we have on people’s lives, but also that this approach brings positive benefits for the health service
We came to them with the project and, despite it being untested and unique, they supported us to develop the programme that we knew was needed. They trusted us to develop the right service that older people in our local area need.
Bringing providers together
We looked holistically at a person’s later stages of life, and thought about all of the issues they may encounter. We brought together healthcare professionals including GPs and pharmacists, social services, community programmes and voluntary organisations who work with older people in the area.
The providers themselves had never worked in this way before but found our approach to be very beneficial. For people who work in the local Health and Social Care Trust this was potentially one of the first times they’d ever sat round a table together and discussed an individual’s case. We started with six GP practices at the start of the project, and had 11 by the end – they were coming to us because they’d heard how positive it was.
During this project we supported over 1,000 older individuals for six months by providing an advisor who acted as a point of contact. The advisor helped people gain access to the services and care providers they needed and, importantly, showed them how to do it by themselves.
Improving lives and cost-effectiveness
We evaluated the project’s impact by comparing the six months that participants were involved with the preceding and subsequent six month periods.
We knew from our own experience that we had helped people, even changing their lives in some cases, but it was impressive to see the results of the evaluation. Our joined-up programme reduced people’s isolation and loneliness, helped people to access the right services for them and empowered them to take control of their own healthcare – and it did so in a more cost-effective way than existing approaches.
Our evaluation also enabled us to produce figures for the social and financial returns on investment in the programme, both of which are very positive. This now means that not only can we show the impact that we have on people’s lives, but also that this approach brings positive benefits for the health service.
We wanted people to have more control over their way forward in life, and to help them be more empowered as to what they want and what matters to them
COVID-19 has presented us with challenges in delivering the programme, but we have adapted to the situation and are still able to provide help. This is especially important as the health and social care landscape is shifting so much with the crisis.
The Dunhill Medical Trust have been instrumental in supporting this project and changing the way that people in our area experience health and social care. They also hosted a conference to share the findings from our evaluation with the wider research and social care community. We are grateful to the DMT and the local Health and Social Care Board who have come together to continue this programme’s funding for a further five years – enabling us to help many more people.
We want to extend our approach to other areas in the future. We are speaking with other health teams and authorities in Northern Ireland with a view to supporting a roll-out of this model across the country, and are looking at ways to develop it for use in other parts of the UK as well.
Without the Dunhill Medical Trust, this project may never have been developed and tested. That initial support and trust has resulted in a service that changes people’s lives for the better, as well as providing further funding that will keep it going for at least the next five years.
Find out more
In January 2020 we published our ‘Sharing Our Learning’ report, which summarises the key findings and evaluation of the project so far – please do give it a read.
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