What is the 'Red Bag' and what does it do?

The 'Hospital Transfer Pathway' or 'Red Bag' scheme, pioneered by Sutton Homes of Care, is designed to make emergency hospital visits safer for care home residents and to speed up discharge.

Convenience and dignity - everything is one place

Red Bags give dignity and comfort to care home residents and peace of mind to their loved ones, in what can be an unfamiliar and sometimes distressing setting. In each bag, personal essentials including glasses, teeth, pyjamas and slippers travel together with a person's medical records and medication list, so that everything is in one place when arriving at the emergency department.

Speedy and efficient care

An evaluation was conducted recently in three London boroughs to see how Red Bags had impacted both service delivery and patients' experience since the initiative's launch in May 2017. Encouragingly, the majority of care homes and ambulances were using a Red Bag with every emergency admission.


About half of hospital clinicians spoken with agreed that Red Bags had improved clinical decision making and communication and sped up discharge planning. Red Bags are seen as a positive addition to promoting effective communication between clinical and nursing care staff, and helping to build positive and proactive working relationships between care homes and hospitals.

However, there is more to do to ensure the Red Bag scheme's success in the longer term. Half of the clinicians approached during the evaluation had either not seen enough Red Bags to comment, or said that the Red Bags they had seen did not include the patient's correct paperwork.

Work is therefore being done to ensure that all participants along the Red Bag's pathway, including family and friends, understand the bag's purpose, and that they each have a part to play in ensuring it contains the correct contents and stays with the care home resident at all times.

Read more about the Red Bag Hospital Transfer Pathway scheme's evaluation.

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