PEOPLE over 65 are now being assessed for signs of frailty when they arrive at Musgrove Park Hospital’s emergency department (ED).

It’s part of a new clinical pathway where a person identified as frail is assessed by a team of older person’s assessment and liaison practitioners, specialist nurses, a joint emergency therapy team and, if required, an adult social care worker.

With the hospital seeing increasing numbers of frail patients, often with complex conditions, it can be difficult to get all the necessary assessments done in ED within a limited time frame.

Clinicians felt an acute frailty unit would be the best way to allow specialists with an understanding of the health needs of frail older people to provide patients with a comprehensive geriatric assessment.

Vital clinical decisions are made at the new unit, which shapes patients' future care, including the medical interventions they need, as well as the best place for their ongoing care.

While the main aim of the unit is to identify patients who can return home safely or those who need a stay in hospital, the team will assess their medical and care needs to ensure they get access to the right level of support when they are ready to leave hospital.

They could be admitted to an appropriate ward or unit at Musgrove or a community hospital, where they are cared for by clinicians with the skills to meet their needs.

The new clinical pathway aims to ease the unprecedented pressure on the hospital’s ED.

In addition, an area has been created at Musgrove for people who no longer need daily medical care and are awaiting a package of care for when they leave hospital.

This means they will continue to be cared for by a team of nurses and therapists, while freeing up space for patients admitted to hospital and needing acute medical care.

Dr Vikky Morris, care of the elderly consultant at Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We’re confident that by getting treatment in a suitable environment with the right specialist staff, our older frail patients will potentially have a reduced length of stay in hospital and a maintained or improved functional state when they are discharged.

“Beginning a comprehensive geriatric assessment for a frail patient as early as possible after they’ve arrived in the hospital is so important in their recovery and it often means they spend less time in hospital or not even need to be admitted.

“The joy of the assessment is that it is a team effort and involves colleagues from many disciplines, thereby giving a fantastic holistic overview of their care."