Community rapid response teams will support older people at home, says NHS

Initiative aims to prevent hospital admissions, but RCN questions nurse staffing capacity

Initiative aims to prevent hospital admissions, but RCN questions nurse staffing capacity

Rapid response teams including nurses will visit older people at home within two hours of referral
Picture: Neil O'Connor

Rapid response teams made up of health and care professionals including nurses will visit older people within two hours of referral, under plans revealed by NHS England.

The £14 million initiative is intended to prevent hospital admissions and support older people to remain at home.

Concern over how teams will be staffed

The teams, made up of nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers and social care staff, will respond within two hours of referral by a GP, 999 call, 111 clinical assessment, paramedic or carer.

They will be trialled in seven parts of England from April 2020 until January 2021.

However, the RCN has raised concerns about staffing the teams, as figures show the number of community nurses has fallen dramatically in the past ten years.

According to the latest NHS Digital figures, there were 35,967 nurses working in community health in October 2019, a small rise on last year’s figure of 35,817 (October 2018). However, the most recent figure is a 13% drop on the 2009 number of 41,549.

Where the teams will be trialled

The rapid response teams will be trialled at:

  • Warrington Together (Cheshire and Merseyside sustainability and transformation partnership (STP))
  • West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership (Kirklees) integrated care system (ICS)
  • Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland STP
  • Cornwall STP
  • Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West ICS
  • South East London ICS
  • Norfolk and Waveney  STP


Teams will also support transfer out of hospital

The new teams will treat people at home to prevent hospital admission. They will also support patients through their transfer out of hospital and provide tailored packages of care so they can be supported to live at home.

But RCN general secretary Dame Donna Kinnair questioned whether there were enough nurses to staff these new teams effectively.  

‘This announcement comes on the day that new figures show yet more nurses have been lost from our local community services in recent years,’ she said.

NHS England was contacted for comment on how it plans to overcome potential staffing challenges.

It is expected that every part of the country will be covered by rapid response teams by April 2023.

NHS England has pledged to support this roll out with an additional £4.5 billion a year for primary care and community services until 2023-24.

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