A GROUND-BREAKING service in Bradford which provides people leaving hospital with the support they need is already preventing readmissions.

The Home from Hospital service, run by Shipley-based Carers' Resource, works to ease adults back into home life after a stay in hospital and enables people to regain their independence.

Volunteers can help with immediate needs, such as making sure they have food and checking heating and lighting, as well as additional practical support such as help with understanding medication routines, organising safe and sound alarms and signposting to support groups.

This work alleviates pressures on hospital beds by decreasing the length of stay and reducing readmissions. Its success is down to caring volunteers taking the time to listen, according to its manager Shelley Marshall.

It comes as as a national report suggests that almost 200,000 people over the age of 75 have left hospital without proper support, increasing the likelihood of being readmitted.

The Royal Voluntary Service said better support could save the NHS in England more than £40 million and prevent thousands of readmissions.

Figures show 13 per cent of over 75s are readmitted for treatment within three months of being discharged. And almost one in seven feels anxious at the prospect of returning home, especially those who live alone.

David McCullough, chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service said: "The population is living longer, an achievement which should be celebrated - yet it is presenting a challenge for the very organisation that has helped people live longer lives.

"With local authority and hospital trusts facing budget cuts, we believe greater volunteer support through home-from-hospital schemes can improve the quality of older people's lives long after a hospital stay and save the NHS millions of pounds."

Mrs Marshall, who runs the Bradford service, which was set up two years ago and helps 400 patients a year, told the Telegraph & Argus: "The service provides people with time - giving patients the opportunity to talk about what is bothering them and any anxieties they may have that are having an impact on their health and wellbeing. Our volunteers have that time."

She added that as well as immediate support, they work closely with other organisations and are able to point people in the direction of other services that will help them.

The national average for readmissions within 30 days for the elderly is about 13 per cent, but following the introduction of the volunteer scheme in Bradford, this has been between one and 6.5 per cent.

Volunteers are always needed, so if you are caring and compassionate and are able to give up 1.5 hours a week to helping others, call the Home from Hospital service on (01274) 449660 or log on to carersresource.org for more information.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s Chief Nurse, Juliette Greenwood said: “Going home from hospital can be a daunting prospect for some people, especially older people who live alone, so we recognise that the planning and discharge home of people over the age of 75-years-old is extremely important.

“We have a number of schemes in place which aim to ease this transition and help give patients back their independence.

“We work closely with Carers’ Resource who jointly run our Home from Hospital Scheme which sees volunteers making home visits and telephone calls on behalf of and to the patients. The scheme is open to all patients, many of whom have complex needs, who live alone or have a carer relationship and Carers’ Resource also provide conversation, companionship and practical help to our patients upon discharge and the people who support them.

“We also work closely with our social work colleagues from Bradford Metropolitan District Council who are based within the Bradford Royal Infirmary and sit alongside the discharge nursing team. The teams work together to ensure that discharges are both timely and appropriate and that the right care package is in place for each patient.

“We are also one of the first trusts nationally to adopt and pioneer the innovative Virtual Ward scheme which provides co-ordinated health and social care for patients who are at high risk of emergency readmissions – such as those with long term condition and frail or vulnerable older people.

“This ground-breaking project aims to prevent readmissions, especially of the elderly, and works just like a hospital ward, using the same staff, systems and daily routines, except that the  people being cared for stay in their own homes throughout.”