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Community support workers reach out to residents in rural Dorset

A dedicated team of community support workers has been set up to provide short term care to frail and vulnerable people living in the most remote parts of North Dorset.

Dorset HealthCare’s new Community Support Worker Service offers care for patients in their own homes in a bid to prevent hospital admission, enable early discharge from hospital, and support people nearing the end of their lives.

As well as carrying out basic nursing care, staff offer help with everything from personal hygiene, food preparation and dressing, to picking up medication and washing clothes. The service operates seven days a week, between 8am and 8pm.

Trust Health and Social Care Coordinator Tessa Bendell helped establish the new service. She said: “We officially launched in December, and it is already having a positive impact on the local population.
“One of the main catalysts behind the idea was giving people the opportunity to die in their own homes with their loved ones, and by providing this short term care, we can also ensure the wishes of patients are respected during the final stages of their lives.”

The three teams, consisting of nine staff, work from hubs based at Shaftesbury, Sherborne and Blandford hospitals. Each hub provides a unique support network to the community worker which includes clinicians, physiotherapists, community matrons and nurses, as well as a palliative care specialist.

This will give them access to any advice and support they need with clinicians available round the clock, and enable them to feedback any concerns they may have about a patient.

Austin Fletcher is one of the Community Support Workers based in Shaftesbury. He said: “North Dorset has been crying out for this type of service.

“Given the choice, I think we would all prefer to receive health care at home rather than go into hospital, and giving people this opportunity means so much to them.

“We can also provide support for families at the most emotional and stressful times if their loved ones are unwell or entering the last stages of their lives.”

Access to the Community Support Worker Service is via referral by a health or social care professional, who will assess an individual’s needs to ensure it is safe for them to stay at home with support.

Patients are then allocated their own key worker, who will design a care plan tailored to that person’s needs.

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