A UNIT, which has helped halve the time older patients spend in Poole Hospital, has been praised by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh.

The NHS medical director singled out the consultant-led elderly care unit for national praise at an event highlighting seven-day health services.

Poole’s Rapid Assessment Consultant Evaluation unit opened in 2010 to support faster and more senior medical input in the care of acutely ill elderly patients.

On the unit, consultant ward rounds take place seven days a week.

The rounds are backed up by skilled therapists, pharmacists and social services staff and since opening it has contributed to an overall reduction in the average time older patients spend in the hospital from 14 days to eight.

More than half of patients on the RACE unit go home with a comprehensive care plan within 48 hours of admission.

And it has won the patient-centred category of the ‘Delivering NHS Services, Seven Days a Week’ conference in Birmingham.

“The RACE unit was set up quite simply because we identified a need for it for our elderly patients,” said Dr Matt Thomas, consultant geriatrician, who established the unit with colleagues. “We want what our patients want – to see them return home to continue their recovery as safely and as quickly as possible.

“The high level of interest that has been shown in the unit shows that we are doing something that can be translated into other hospitals, and that is very rewarding.”

Val Horn, medicine for the elderly matron said: “The success of the RACE unit comes from establishing genuinely multidisciplinary working, from doctors and nurses to therapists, social services and volunteer groups, all working around the needs of each patient.”

Trust medical director Robert Talbot, who chairs a group established to explore ways to bolster weekend care, said: “The innovative RACE unit, and the national recognition it continues to attract, is just one example of how seven day services are already a reality for patients at Poole Hospital.”