Friends of the Elderly: advice on the value of their home support service

29 Feb 2016

How cost-effective are Friends of the Elderly’s activities to prevent certain traumas that affect old people when compared with the NHS’ treatment of them?

PBE volunteers considered this question during a recent project to assist Friends of the Elderly. The project’s aim was to demonstrate that the work of their Home Support Services (now Triangle Community Services (TCS)) supports people to stay in their own homes for longer and is saving public money by reducing possible hospital admissions.

PBE volunteers undertook surveys of TCS’s Home Support Workers (HSWs) to identify both the full range of activities they undertake in clients’ homes, in particular those activities related to healthcare and the prevention of trauma. Volunteers also surveyed a sample of clients in order to compare these responses with those of the HSWs and to investigate clients’ well-being.

Choosing falls in the home and the contraction of intestinal infectious diseases (IIDs) as exemplar traumas, PBE volunteers adopted an Activity Based Costing approach to establish the costs of activities HSWs employ to prevent them. These costs were then compared to the hospital costs of treating these traumas, either through GP referrals or through Accident and Emergency admission.

Drawing on a sensitivity analysis of the comparative costs, the analyses revealed that it would require only small reductions in the numbers of falls and IIDs from the levels expected of TCS’s elderly clients in order to pay for the preventative activities. Moreover, since the HSWs carried out activities that are related to the identification and prevention of much more serious illnesses (such as strokes and cancer) it is likely that much higher savings to hospital costs are being achieved – but further research would be required to identify these.  

We would like to thank Julian Laite, Jack Gannaway and Joe Perkins for their help and support in producing this report.