Help is at home for older people

Diane Rutherford, Northumbria Primary Care's first community nurse practitioner.
Diane Rutherford, Northumbria Primary Care's first community nurse practitioner.

Older people in the Cramlington area are benefitting from a specialist nurse at their GP practice helping them to live well at home for longer.

Diane Rutherford is Northumbria Primary Care’s (NPC) first community nurse practitioner for frailty.

The nurse of 30 years works across six GP practices in Northumberland and North Tyneside, including Cramlington Medical Group.

Diane works with older, more vulnerable people in the community to ensure they are managing at home and to help avoid them being admitted to hospital where possible.

NPC is a pioneering partnership between Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and local GPs to provide professional support services to primary care.

Diane, who has spent the latter part of her career caring for older people in hospital, said: “It’s so much better for older people to be able to be cared for at home in familiar surroundings with family and friends on hand, and my role is all about making sure that happens for as many of our patients as possible.

“Of course, if a patient’s condition deteriorates and they need to go to hospital then they should absolutely be there. However, as soon as they have recovered sufficiently, we do all we can to get them back where they belong and want to be – home.”

She added: “Going into hospital, even for a short time, can be disorientating, even distressing, for anyone. It’s often worse for older patients who suddenly find themselves in an alien environment.

“This can lead to them having short-term delirium, which is not only harmful to them, but distressing for family members who are not used to seeing their loved one in this state.

“Having a dedicated role for frailty is an excellent addition to Northumbria Primary Care and means that hundreds of older, more vulnerable patients can benefit from this resource.”

Diane works closely with GPs, practice teams and community nurses in the practices to identify patients who need extra support, such as those at greater risk of falling.

A key part of her role is telephoning patients who have had a spell in hospital to make sure they have the care they need.

“It’s so rewarding working with older people,” said Diane. “Having spent my whole career in hospitals, it’s a privilege to be now working in the community, seeing patients at home.

“It gives you a true picture of how they’re managing and how to make a real, lasting difference, not just to their recovery, but to their quality of life for years to come.”