North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust is now able to refer patients to social care services at the “press of a button.”

Dr William Lumb, chief clinical information officer at NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, told Digital Health News that the ability to refer adult patients for social care is the latest development in the Cumbria Common Platform.

This is a partnership effort between providers in Cumbria to share healthcare information in a real-time, interoperable way.

Dr Lumb said that staff at North Cumbria University Hospitals can use Allocate’s RealTime PatientFlow bed management system to send referrals to social services, using a bespoke resource matching and e-referral system from Strata Health, known locally as ‘air traffic control.’

This can replace the traditional process of filling out a paper form and faxing, saving time and creating standardisation of service.

“If staff at the acute trust use RealTime as they should use it then a social care referral is essentially the press of a button. Data is extracted and transmitted seamlessly to Strata.”

The new way of working is due to be established within the next three months. “If North Cumbria pushes this out, and there is no reason why they shouldn’t, it will mean every single referral between acute health and social care will be electronic.”

A similar process is already in place at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, another partner in the Cumbria Common Platform, where staff can use the Lorenzo electronics patient record to transfer information to the Strata platform.

“The entire patient load in those two hospitals, in practical terms, their health to social care referral can be made electronically. That’s done.”

Lumb said that the region is currently running at over 1,000 referrals a month, and he hopes to get to around 6,000 to 8,000.

He added that the North Cumbria University Hospitals is working on developing the data fields in RealTime to allow staff to use the system to refer patients directly to community nursing. “That’s a configuration issue rather than a coding issue. That will rapidly follow.”

Cumbria Common Platform, led by Cumbria CCG, is also working on linking the Strata platform to EMIS Web GP and community systems, the Adastra system used by out-of-hours services, the RiO EPR at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and with Cumbria County Council’s Liquidlogic adult and children’s social care system.

Lumb’s ultimate aim is to create a “real dynamic and competent directory of services” across the Cumbrian healthcare economy, which includes Cumbria CCG, two acute trusts, a combined community and mental health trust, a single social care organisation, a single out of hours service and multiple care homes and third sector services.

Using the directory, clinicians will be able to enter a patient’s care requirements into their native system and be met with a list of the range of services that are appropriate to refer to.

“If someone has dementia, you can see that some nursing homes can cope with dementia. Those that wouldn’t are automatically excluded. You can make sure right patient goes to right location.”