Home  »  Your health  »  Red Bag initiative making a big difference in Bedfordshire

Red Bag initiative making a big difference in Bedfordshire

Page graphic

Bedfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council have launched a simple initiative to help people living in care homes and learning disability homes receive quick and effective transfer and treatment should they need to go into hospital.

The Bedfordshire Red Bag initiative has been developed in partnership with Bedford Borough Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, representatives of Bedfordshire care and learning disability homes, Bedford Hospital, Luton and Dunstable Hospital, and with East of England Ambulance Trust.

The "Red Bag" keeps important information about the health of a resident in one place, which is easily accessible to ambulance and hospital staff. It contains standardised information about the resident's general health, any existing medical conditions they have, medication they are taking, and their current health concern. 

This means that ambulance and hospital staff can determine the treatment a resident needs more effectively.

The Red Bag will also contain personal belongings (such as clothes for day of discharge, glasses, etc) and it stays with the patient whilst they are in hospital. When patients are ready to return to the home, a copy of their discharge summary letter will be placed in the red bag so that staff have access to the information when their resident arrives back at the care or learning disabilities home.

Benefits of the Red Bag

The Hospital Transfer Pathway (HTP) – more affectionately known as the Red Bag initiative was developed by the Sutton Homes of Care project, with Sutton Clinical Commissioning Group as part of the national Vanguard programme (an NHS England New Care Models programme), to improve care in residential and nursing homes. 

The Red Bag initiative aims to improve resident/patient experience and provide support to care homes, the ambulance service and local hospital to meet the requirements of the NICE guidance on transition between inpatient hospital setting and care homes.  The Red Bag initiative is being implemented by Clinical Commissioning Groups across the country, including those within the east of England. 

  • The Red Bag aims to improve patients' experience of being taken to and from hospital and provides more patient centred care.
  • Improved efficiency in the admission and discharge process through having important information readily available in one place, saving time at each stage of the patient's care and allows staff to make more informed decisions about the person they are caring for.
  • Communication by all staff involved in the resident’s care to and from hospital will be improved.
  • The Red Bag clearly identifies a patient as being a care home or learning disability home resident and this means that it may be possible for the patient to be discharged sooner.  Including clearer coordination of medications and more inclusive discharge planning.
  • Reduces loss of documentation.
  • Reduces loss of personal belongings.

The following video link from the Sutton Homes of Care Vanguard provides resident perspectives of the Red Bag pathway.

What goes into the Red Bag? 

The Red Bag contains standardised information/paperwork, some medication and personal belongings.  The Red Bag stays with the care home resident from the time they leave the home to go to hospital until the time they return to their care home at the end of their stay in hospital. Standardised documents to be included in the Red Bag (listed in order) are provided below as a guide.

Confidential Form and Cleaning Instructions

Red Bag Checklist

Transfer Form

Care Home Resident Summary Care Plan (or Care Home equivalent form)

‘All about me’ leaflet (learning & disability) (if applicable)

‘This is me’ leaflet (care home) (if applicable)

What goes into the Red Bag and Medication Do’s & Don’ts

Protocol for Return of Red Bags: deceased patient, patient not returning to the originating care home, lost bags and Red Bag Transfer Pathway, a quick guide.

Requirements of staff at each stage of the Red Bag Journey

Please click on the sections below to view the responsibilities and requirements of staff at each stage of the Red Bag journey.

Key points for all staff

Red Bag Transfer Pathway, a quick guide

Care home staff - Outbound to hospital

Ambulance staff

Hospital staff: arrival at hospital and stay on ward

Hospital staff: discharge

Ambulance/patient transport staff

Care home staff – Upon resident return







Site design and maintenance by CRB Associates