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Integrating housing, health and care services effectively allows older people to stay independent in their own homes for longer

Supporting an individual to remain living in their own home as they age, rather than moving into residential care, is better for their wellbeing. However, providing services and adapting homes to enable older people to live within them is not straightforward. Issues that prevent independent living include the lack of preventative health and social care services to support optimal wellbeing, lack of health retirement-friendly housing and poor living conditions arising from an inability to access or fund necessary home improvements and adaptations. Over the last decade a team of researchers from the department of Nursing, Midwifery and Health have been working alongside North Tyneside Council to resolve these issues; designing and implementing a range of initiatives to support the integration of health and care services within housing services. 

In 2011, Professor Glenda Cook, Dr Phil Hodgson, Dr Cathy Bailey and colleagues brought their expertise on integrating services for the needs of older people to a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with North Tyneside Council, focused on the delivery of the Council’s sheltered housing services for older people. The research began with a Health Needs Assessment of almost a thousand sheltered housing tenants in the area to determine the conditions that typically resulted in emergency admissions to hospital. Using this data, the partnership designed a range of initiatives to help reduce these emergency admissions within the context of sheltered housing services. Following this project, similar initiatives were made available to the wider public, including Safe and Healthy Homes, a Healthy Living Falls Prevention Programme and a Falls first responder service.

Safe and Healthy Homes 

This new service started in 2015 and helps residents in sheltered housing to deal with housing issues (such as mould and damp) that are affecting their health. The Safe and Healthy Homes team facilitate a programme of interventions to solve the issues, ranging from home improvements to rehabilitation. The service helps to catch issues early, allowing residents to live safely in their homes for longer. An estimated 2.2% of all households in the Borough have already used the service. 

Healthy Living Falls Prevention Programme 

This is a six-week exercise and education programme for older people that aims to reduce the factors that make falls more likely to occur. Since 2014, it has become an integral part of North Tyneside’s falls pathways and has improved people’s balance and gait, making them less at risk of falling in the future.  

Falls First Responder Service 

Based on the learning derived through the KTP about integrated working the Council's service leads developed a new service where non-injurious falls can be managed through North Tyneside’s Care Call service rather than through standard ambulance services, resulting in dramatically reduced waiting times and fewer hospital admissions. This service won an MJ (Municipal Journal, the management journal for local authority business) Achievement award in 2018 and has been rolled out to more places in Northern England.  

In addition, the research team have explored the views of older residents about adapting their homes for old age, and what features and factors (for example: embedded health care and support, good public transportation and social opportunities) would make them consider relocating to new integrated residential developments known as ‘garden villages’. This led to a collaboration with a local architect firm and social housing consortium to design flexible housing that is inclusive to ageing-in-place. Planning permission was granted in 2018, and building due to start in 2021, for a garden village at South Seaham in County Durham. It will include a health and wellbeing hub, indoor/outdoor space to promote physical activity and 5G and digital infrastructure to support telehealthcare and good links with primary and community care services. The research team continue to work with the planners on integrating health and care with housing on-site and in the new homes.  

Photo: Design for Garden Village in Seaham. Credit: IDPartnership

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