NHS Highland’s Nutrition and Dietetics Advisor: Care Homes
NHS Highland has had lead agency responsibility for all adult health and social care provision since service integration in December 2012. I was appointed to my strategic role as nutrition and dietetic advisor for care homes in April 2014. This is a very unique post in the UK and offers lots of opportunity to highlight the role and impact of nutrition and hydration in supporting the health and quality of life for elderly residents and service users.
The north Highland adult health and social care partnership supports 74 care homes; 16 of which are directly managed by NHS Highland. Many of them are based in and around Inverness but I support care homes in some very remote and rural areas, from Caithness, across to Skye, down to Lochaber and over to Strathspey.
I have found care home staff, managers and owners very keen to engage with me and have been able to identify a number of common areas which I can help them with.
Supporting an increasing number of residents with swallowing difficulties, linked to stroke, dementia and other conditions led to the development of a texture modification master class, supported by colleagues from speech and language therapy and occupational therapy. So far more than 400 home care staff have attended these sessions and each time we run them we have new care homes wanting to send staff. The effect of this training has directly led to improvements in care of these residents such as: more varied menus for each texture; use of fruit smoothies; more appropriate SLT referrals; purchase of new equipment to support safer eating; and less distractions at mealtimes.
A quarterly, electronic newsletter (“Nutrition News”) has been developed to engage with a wider audience of care home, care at home and community clinical staff. This has helped to share good practice stories, up to date, evidence based information, details of nutrition/hydration training and resources to help them.
We have been able to pilot the first care home model of a dietetic placement in the UK with support from Robert Gordon’s University and we are now actively working with NES and the Care inspectorate to develop a care at home model, with a local independent service provider.
This work has been recognised by the Advancing healthcare awards, where we came runners up in the 2015 AHPF award for integration and more recently when we collected the prestigious Dame Barbara Clayton award at The British Dietetic Association’s annual awards dinner on the 4th of June.
Life is never dull in my role and I really enjoy being able to make a difference to the lives of service users in homely settings, sometimes with just the simplest of ideas or links I can make on their behalf.
Integrated health and social care if implemented with the service user at the centre can really transform their quality of life and help them to live life as they would want in their own home settings.