A new way to help people in Norwich when they’re heading for a health or care crisis is being put to the test.

Already the Norwich Escalation Avoidance Team – known as the NEAT – has helped patients remain safely at home when otherwise they might have ended up going to hospital.

It is being tested for eight weeks, although everyone involved would like it to continue if it works effectively.

NHS 111 Headquarters

The NEAT team is a group of NHS and social care professionals drawn from a range of different disciplines, based at the NHS 111 headquarters in Norwich run by Integrated Care 24 (IC24). The team acts as a single point of contact for health and care professionals such as GPs, community nurses, mental health workers, paramedics from the ambulance service, social workers or therapists.

The NEAT staff can quickly have a multi-disciplinary discussion and plan the best response. Very often this will be a swift package of care from nurses, social workers or other professionals, all working in a co-ordinated way.

The people who can be referred into the NEAT will have been seen by their health or social care worker. They will have recognised the patient is heading for a ‘crisis’ and know they need an urgent response. Typically, a patient will have several different health problems; they might be older, possibly frail and need extra support to stay safe and well at home.

Voluntary groups

The aim of the NEAT is always to make sure the patient gets the help and support they require. If they really do need to go to hospital they will, but in most cases they are helped to stay at home where they want to be. Sometimes voluntary groups will be able to offer some ongoing support to ensure other issues in the person’s life are addressed, such as loneliness.

The Chair of NHS Norfolk CCG, Queen’s Nurse Tracy Williams, said: 'NEAT is a new and innovative approach to providing care that we are very excited about. The right health and care professionals are all in the same place, planning the care collectively and holistically, which means care to our patients can be provided by the right person and truly wrapped around them – meeting their needs at home in a timely way. We have had a positive response from patients so far whose care has been managed by NEAT.'

Joint working

The NEAT has been put together by NHS and social care organisations working as one, including NHS Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group, the OneNorwich GP alliance, Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust, IC24, Norfolk County Council, the mental health trust NSFT, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, East of England Ambulance Service, Age UK Norwich and Voluntary Norfolk.

Nick Pryke, Assistant Director for Integrated Care in Norwich for Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Community Health & Care NHS Trust said: 'Bringing together professionals from across the NHS, Social Services and the Voluntary Sector allows us to make joined up decisions about the right support for people in a crisis. NEAT enables people to stay in control of their health and wellbeing and with support to quickly recover from a crisis and continue to live their lives fully in their local community.'

Trial basis

The prototype NEAT is being tested for eight weeks initially. Partners involved want to find out how effective it is, whether it is the right model and whether the money it costs to run is justified by the benefits and savings it delivers.

The results of the pilot are being evaluated as it goes along with the intention of developing and shaping it to be as effective as possible.