Our favourite meal is often what we dream of the most when in hospital. The new Home First team turns such yearnings into reality and for Kidlington resident Mike Harris, that means a return to his beloved curry dishes!

Mike is among the first to experience the new Home First project, a joint initiative by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, and Age UK Oxfordshire, rolled out last week.

The 69-year-old returned home following a six week stay in the John Radcliffe Hospital, on Monday.

He is now benefiting from the new service, which helps patients leaving hospital to identify what support they need to regain independence and confidence.

Home First lead, Sally Steele, explained: “We met Mike in his home on Monday – the day he was discharged from hospital – to establish how we could support him in re-gaining as much independence as possible.

“Our reablement assessor Maariyah, and Occupational Therapist Kate, talked through with Mike what’s important to him; and how our team could help.

“Mike had been finding taking the right medication at the right time difficult and wanted support to establish a new way of doing this. He also likes cooking his own meals; we’re helping him adapt so curry will soon be back on his lunchtime menu!”

Mike has lived in Kidlington for many years. He has family and friends nearby that he enjoyed getting out to see. This was another area that required Home First’s support to achieve.

Team members Maariyah and Kate developed a reablement plan for his first few days of being home.

Sally explained: “This includes assistive technology to help with medication. Reablement support workers visiting three times a day to re-establish meal preparation skills and routines, and a request for Age UK Oxfordshire to come and meet Mike to look at how they can help.

“We’re confident that with this support, Mike will achieve his goal of getting back out into the community to meet with family and friends. He’ll also be cooking his favourite curry again very soon.”

Sally and team are now working closely with Mike to see how he is progressing and to gradually reduce hands-on support as he slowly moves towards achieving independent living once again.

“We’ll regularly review his progress during the reablement period. Close working with our colleagues in GP’s and community health teams will also be key to sustaining Mike’s wellbeing in his own home.”

The Home First team is a collaboration consisting of representatives from a wide range of health, therapy, voluntary and social care backgrounds; coming together to operate as a single unit to provide support for residents leaving bed-based care.

Sally continued: “Home First aims to get people home from hospital more quickly by getting the right professional or volunteer to meet them in their home on the day of discharge or soon after.

“By assessing people at home and not in their hospital bed, together we can find out what is important for the person and how to help them to be as independent as they can be.”

Sam Foster, Chief Nursing Officer at OUH, said: “This initiative is a really wonderful development for our patients. Once hospital care is complete, many people want to be back home as soon as possible, which is completely understandable. Being in hospital for longer than needed often leads to a deterioration in people’s general condition, and can even increase their long-term care needs.

“By helping people regain their independence and continuing our ‘home first’ approach, the team can continue to deliver safe, effective care and support in the most appropriate and often happiest setting for our patients.”

And Sara Bolton, Oxford Health’s Associate Director of Allied Health Professionals, said:  “We are delighted our community based occupational therapists and physiotherapists are working in new ways with colleagues across the Oxfordshire health and social care system. Our patients are always at the centre of everything we do and this model of support aims to increase people’s independence on discharge home, so people can lead the best lives they can.”

The pilot project is covering Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington and Woodstock and will be supporting residents from both acute and community hospitals in achieving and sustaining their optimum levels of independence in their own homes.