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Official evaluation of Evercare finds no effect on admissions or bed days

Damning verdict on flagship matrons scheme

The Government's flagship community matrons scheme has suffered a huge blow after a long-running evaluation concluded it had completely failed to cut hospital admissions.

The comprehensive analysis of the Evercare prototype matrons scheme also found it had had no benefits for hospital bed usage or mortality in high-risk elderly patients.

Deaths actually appeared to increase by as much as 38 per cent in the Evercare pilots,

although this fell just short of statistical significance.

The findings raise huge doubts over the Government's sweeping rollout of matrons, which are now a key feature of chronic disease management policy across England.

Researchers analysed admissions in 62 practices from nine PCTs that piloted Evercare, and non-pilot controls. Their analysis, funded by the Department of Health, found hospital

admissions and bed days went up in both groups, but not significantly so.

Study leader Professor Martin Roland, director of the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, said the initiative had failed in its primary objective, although it had proved popular with patients.

'If the intention was to reduce admissions then it's not been successful.

'We found poor communications between hospitals and matrons. They found it hard to get into the system and reduce admissions, as they were only working during normal hours.'

The report found the scheme was unlikely to reduce admissions without 'radical redesign' – including focus on higher-risk patients and out-of-hours cover.

Dr Tom Frewin, a GP in Bristol, where one of the pilots has been running, was unsurprised by the results and said the scheme was unpopular with GPs in his area.

'This is a policy that's been forced on us by Number 10. It's driven by politics and not good medical practice.

'If this has shown it's not effective then the Government needs to stop it. If they're not

going to stop it, they need to come clean and say it's been a waste of money,' he said.

Dr Richard Smith, chief executive of United Health Europe – the company that runs Evercare – said the report was flawed and much had changed since the

pilots were introduced.

But he agreed on the need for out-of-hours cover.

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