Older patients in Swindon are spending less time at the Great Western Hospital thanks to a simple yet effective initiative that sees care home residents arrive in hospital with their belongings in a distinct red bag. 

Since the scheme - a collaboration between Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group - was introduced in January, the average length of stay for those coming to hospital with a red bag has reduced by more than a week. 

Each of the red bags, which are available to residents at all care homes in Swindon, contain current medication, details of medical history and personal belongings, and have helped to improve patient experience and speed up discharges. 

The introduction of a trusted assessor, who works with care homes to support residents before, during and after their hospital stay, has also helped reduce time in hospital. 

Gill May, Director of Nursing and Transformation, said: "It's incredible to think how much a simple initiative can have such a huge impact.

"We know that lengthy hospital stays can have a detrimental impact on an older person's health, so it's great to see more and more people spending less time on a ward and more time with their family and friends in their usual surroundings. 

"If the first three months are anything to go by, the next year looks certain to bring even more improvements." 

Under the red bag scheme, patients arrive at the Great Western Hospital with the red bag in tow and keep it near to them throughout their stay.

With their information stored in one easy-to-locate place, staff can begin to plan a person's discharge and treatment goals earlier and without delay. 

Initial feedback has been incredibly positive, with patients, as well as their families and carers, speaking of their joy at experiencing a much smoother and stress-free journey in and out of hospital. 

Viv Zinyemba, Trainee Advanced Care Practitioner for the Department of Medicine for the Elderly, said: "It is so good to see how well the scheme has taken off. 

"Patients, as well as staff in hospital and care homes, are all on board and it has been remarkable to see the reduction in hospital stays.

"It is very exciting and we hope this will continue to improve."