NURSES and social workers have relocated to the Richardson Community Hospital in Barnard Castle, enhancing services at the facility.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Durham County Council, and NHS commissioners say the move is part of a continuing commitment to strengthen the role of the hospital – where there had previously been concerns about its future.

District nurses support patients in their homes and care homes and work with social workers to provide services that help people live independently for as long as possible.

By basing these teams at the hospital, they are closer to the community wards, allowing them to liaise with ward staff to ensure quicker and safer discharges.

It will also mean that the same nurses and social workers patients meet in hospital will visit them at home.

Sandra Smyth, district nurse team leader, said: “The reaction to the move has been incredibly positive. Both teams have seen real benefits from being jointly located in the Richardson and that’s helping to make speedier, more effective responses for the people of Teesdale.

“Working together in this way makes it easier to join up the care packages designed for local patients and to give joint assessments, linking in with specialist services as needed such as therapists and community psychiatric nurses, who are also based in the hospital. We can also arrange multidisciplinary meetings to share knowledge much more easily now as we’re all working in the same building, right next door to each other.”

Steven Shires, locality matron for the Durham Dales, said: “We share the same patients and the fact that we can have a conversation face-to-face about the people that we’re looking after is fantastic. It simply means better, more coordinated care for the people of Teesdale.”

The Richardson Community Hospital opened in 2007 and has 16 beds with two further beds that can be opened if needed. It also offers more than 20 specialist clinics, including urology, dermatology, audiology, ophthalmology and speech and language therapy.

Moving district nurses and social workers to the site is part of a new health and social care model in County Durham that puts people and patients at the heart of care. It has seen County Durham’s innovative Integrated Community Care Partnership bring together NHS organisations, the council and other providers to deliver improved, joined up health and social care services closer to people’s home and to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions.

Councillor Lucy Hovvels, cabinet member for adult and health services at Durham County Council, said: “We want our health and social care services to help the people of County Durham to lead healthy and happy lives at home. It’s wonderful to hear about the positive impact the relocation of district nurses and social workers to the Richardson Community Hospital is already having in Teesdale.

“As well as making it easier for health professionals to work together, it’s providing more co-ordinated care to patients. This includes the comforting knowledge that the district nurse and social workers who will be visiting them when they leave hospital are people they already know.”