The Older Peoples Assessment and Liaison service (OPAL) has been fully rolled out at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham.

OPAL is an enhanced and expanded geriatrician led older person’s clinical team at the hospital front door which provides specialist care quickly, reduces hospital admissions, and ensures that older people are cared for  in the most ideal setting for their recovery. The team, which operates 8am-8pm, seven days a week, sees older people as soon as they arrive and liaises closely with community services, including mental health and social workers,  with the aim of helping them to return home with support.

OPAL teams are now available at the three University Hospitals Birmingham Trust (UHB) acute hospitals:  Queen Elizabeth, Heartlands and Good Hope hospitals.

The OPAL service at Heartlands has been further complemented by the opening of an Older Persons Assessment and Decision Unit (OPAD).  This twelve bedded unit is open 24/7  and provides an overnight stay area for those people not able to return home the same day after being assessed by the OPAL team. On OPAD, patients can be further reviewed and treated and, if necessary, be admitted to one of the health care for older people-based wards.

The OPAD team is also geriatrician led.  It sees older patients that are referred via the Emergency Departments, GP’s via the on-call OPAL service and OPAL+.

OPAL+ is a virtual consultation approach between OPAL and other community professionals including the West Midlands Ambulance Service.  It supports patients to stay in their home and avoid visiting the Emergency Department.

Hardi Jaff, Consultant Geriatrician and OPAL Lead at UHB said: “The successful roll out of OPAL and OPAD is testament to the determination and commitment from front line operational staff at Heartlands to continually improve the way we care for older people. Led by geriatricians, OPAL is a more effective approach to assessing the health and wellbeing of older people, with the aim of helping to reduce unnecessary hospital admission.  The OPAL team is also supporting OPAD with social worker and therapist input.

“Ensuring that OPAD is now open 24 hours means that there is more support for older people.  Often more vulnerable people fall ill or have falls at night and if they need to be admitted to hospital, this specialist area is now fully available.”