Last year, one of our managers had a eureka moment, or perhaps I should call it a ‘blue light’ moment!  I can’t comment on whether he was in the bath at the time, but wherever it was, it was a rather a good idea!

Why not locate one of our qualified social workers in South Central Ambulance Service’s (SCAS) emergency operations centre to work collaboratively alongside 999 emergency call handlers - perhaps this could prevent one or two older people who really require social care, from being admitted unnecessarily into hospital?

With more than 600 avoided admissions achieved so far this year in Hampshire, this unique collaboration, believed to be the first of its kind across English Ambulance Services, is delivering real results.

Once a 999-ambulance crew has attended an emergency incident, the paramedic team assesses the situation, and if they consider the patient requires adult social care support rather than medical intervention, the SCAS based social worker intervenes and organises the required help and assistance, freeing up the crew to attend their next call.

Located with the Air Ambulance Critical Care Team, adjacent to the ‘Labour Line’, our Social Work Line is currently a very busy Monday to Friday operation, supporting ambulance crews and hospital discharge teams across the whole county.

To prepare for the pilot, our social worker Sarah, shadowed 999 and NHS 111 call takers, joined ambulance crews on their call-outs, and presented to numerous NHS management and operational meetings.  The thorough prep paid off, and Sarah is now considered an integral part of the SCAS team. 

Critical to the success, has been getting the right person in place. It requires someone who can think on their feet, is not afraid of positive risk taking, and applies a strengths based approach to every situation they encounter – and let’s be clear, while many of her calls are to individuals well known to the system, there are also a fair few which are unique and require significant ‘thinking outside the box’.  

For me, this is partnership working at its very best, and shows the difference one person can make.

A simple concept but one that benefits individuals and their families, as well as the wider population of our county - also easing the intense pressure on our acute system partners.

Those outside social care may think that it’s difficult to innovate in our industry – I would beg to differ.

Should colleagues like further information, would be happy to discuss.

Graham Allen
Director, Adults’ Health and Care
Hampshire County Council