Sunday, 21 April 2024
Sunday, 21 April 2024

South Yorkshire older people’s charity wins top UK health award

SHEFFIELD-based charity Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care has won a major national award for its work supporting older people to be swiftly and safely discharged home from hospital.

Following a rigorous selection and assessment process, Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care (SCCCC) was chosen from more than 400 charities across the UK as one of the 10 winners of the 2023 GSK IMPACT Awards which are delivered in partnership with leading health and care charity The King’s Fund. Now in their 26th year, the awards are a mark of excellence in the charity sector, designed to recognise the outstanding work of small and medium-sized charities working to improve people’s health and wellbeing in the UK. This year winners will receive £40,000 in unrestricted funding as well as expert support and leadership development provided by The King’s Fund.   

Long stays in hospital are bad for patients, especially for those who are older or frail, leading to increased risks of falls, infections, or of mental and physical deterioration. Delays in hospital discharges also put pressure on NHS hospitals. Latest data shows that each day there are around 14,000 medically-fit patients stranded in hospital beds unable to be discharged, due in part to the fact social care and NHS community services do not have the resources needed to meet demand. Living alone can also make the hospital discharge process for older people particularly challenging, as they may face impaired mobility, dementia or anxiety or need specialist equipment in their homes. 

Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care(SCCCC) was formed in 1965 to recruit volunteers to work alongside professionals from health and social care services to support frail older people returning home from hospital. Thanks to its dedicated staff team and large committed team of 176 volunteers the charity has now expanded its services across South Yorkshire.

The award judges were particularly impressed by SCCCC’s innovative ‘Hospital to Home’ scheme which provides transport in three wheelchair-accessible vehicles to enable people over 65 to return home from a hospital stay, or A&E, swiftly and safely. 

Delays in delivering equipment to people’s home is another major reason behind delayed discharge from hospital. Prior to a patient’s return, the charity’s Hospital Aftercare team delivers and fits equipment to their homes such as key safes, mobility and toileting aids and moves furniture to accommodate hospital beds, with almost 2,400 pieces of equipment delivered last year. Once people are home they also assist with shopping and maintaining warmth in the home, and spend a few hours helping them to settle in. 

Following on from the success of this service discharging older people from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, they have been asked to pilot a service with Doncaster Royal Infirmary to help people regain confidence and settle at home after a hospital stay. Data collected by the charity suggests in 78% of cases patient discharge would have been delayed, often by at least four days, had the charity not become involved. The charity estimates that they are saving the NHS at least £850,000 a year in excess bed days.

The award win comes at a time when many local charities find themselves working in a uniquely challenging environment.  The long-term consequences of Covid and the current cost of living crisis are having a significant impact on the health and well-being of many local communities, public services are under additional pressure, and charity finances have been hit hard. Despite this SCCCC has continued to innovate and expand the services it offers. Last year the charity received funding to launch a winter pressures service in response to the deep floods and snow affecting Sheffield. They provide a 4×4 vehicle to help health and social care workers reach patients in rural and isolated parts of the community at peak times, in addition to also delivering equipment and food. 

Tackling isolation is a core part SCCCC’s work in the community, and its ‘Good Neighbour Scheme’ arranges for volunteers to provide weekly telephone or in-person company and emotional support to those who are lonely or isolated. This can expand to practical help such as food shopping and accompanying people to appointments. During the Covid-19 pandemic, they launched a ‘Pen Pal Happy Mail’ service to support particularly isolated people as well as those with hearing impairments. Last year over 5,500 pieces of ‘happy mail’ were shared on Pen Pals.

Many of the older people the charity supports are particularly vulnerable, for example they may be on low incomes or claiming pension credit and worried about heating their homes. Just over a third of the population of Sheffield live in areas classed as being within the 20% most deprived parts of England.

Lisa Weaks, Senior Associate at The King’s Fund, said:

“SCCCC plays a vital role in supporting older people to return home from hospital without delay. It is embedded in the local community, with an impressively large team of volunteers and has continued to respond to the changing needs and pressures on the wider health and care system, for example through its innovative winter pressures service. The charity’s significant role in supporting the NHS in Sheffield is commendable, and it is widely regarded as a trusted partner in the hospital discharge system. Its volunteer-led ‘good neighbour’ services offer a lifeline to vulnerable older people who may be lonely or isolated.” 

Commenting on the award, Mark Storey, CEO of Sheffield Churches Council for Community Care said:

“We are extremely delighted that the judges of the highly coveted GSK IMPACT awards have recognised the fantastic work of the whole SCCCC team in supporting hospital discharge in Sheffield and named us as one of the winners for 2023. As an organisation, SCCCC has supported older people, their families and carers, and health and social care professionals for nearly six decades and this award recognises the passion and dedication that our staff, volunteers, trustees and partners have given over the many years. Without their devotion to helping others, we would not be where we are today. 

“The support of the GSK IMPACT AWARDS and The King’s Fund provides a huge motivational boost as we look towards the future. Being part of the wider awards network and leadership development programme that we can access as winners will be of great benefit as we learn and grow both as an organisation and as individuals. Of course, we will also be able to share best practices with other like-minded organisations so that they can learn from us too. This approach of sharing learning can ultimately benefit the people we serve and contribute to a more sustainable impact.”

Developing leaders in the charity sector is a key aim of the GSK IMPACT Awards programme and all winners are invited to build on their success and take part in a tailored leadership development programme run by The King’s Fund.  

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