Nobody wants to stay in hospital a minute longer than necessary, so Nurse Heather McAndrew’s job is to get frail, elderly patients in East and North Herts back into their own bed as swiftly as possible.

Heather is Hertfordshire Care Providers Association’s (HCPA) Lead Social Care Trusted Assessor working with the Lister Hospital, Stevenage and East and North Hertfordshire’s 92 care homes as part of the NHS Vanguard Programme.

The ground-breaking service is designed to ease the discharge process from hospital to residential care and nursing homes.

Sharon Davies, HCPA CEO said “At HCPA we hear all too often about poor discharges and we are delighted to have been given the funding to enable us to place a Trusted Nurse Assessor at the hospital solely working on behalf of the private care homes. We always listen to feedback from our members and we felt that this was such an important area to get right that we really wanted to make a difference. Heather is the right person to champion homes and to ease the process and we know our members will find her (and soon her team) to be an invaluable asset. Write Heather’s number in your contacts book as she will be a person you can speak to whenever one of your clients are in Lister. We also hope to replicate this service in Watford General and will be contact members in the west as soon as we have people in place”

Heather’s role is to use her skills as a registered nurse to carry out assessments on elderly patients to see whether they are fit to return to their care home, or in some cases, finding a suitable care home for the first time. The job involves a huge degree of trust because care homes have traditionally done their own assessments.

“My role can relieve care home staff who often have to travel a long distance to visit patients at Lister in order for them to be discharged. It’s very early days and some homes still want to do their own assessments, but I can still help by getting a lot of the information together before they arrive” said Heather.

Establishing trust with both the hospital and care home staff is key to the Trusted Assessor role and Heather is well equipped to understand the issues faced by both.

Having decided on a career in nursing as young as 10-years-old (her mum is a state registered nurse) Heather worked in a care home before taking up nursing training and then as a healthcare assistant while studying.

“I wanted to experience all aspects of elderly care for myself” she said.

After qualifying as a Nurse Heather worked at Lister Hospital in the Renal Unit for nine months so is no stranger to the hospital and its processes.

“Assessments can take from 30 minutes to two hours depending on the complexity of the situation and it’s often easier to be the one looking from the outside in” said Heather, who particularly enjoys the interaction with patients.

Julie Hutchins, Registered Manager at Honister shared her experience of the service;

“Heather contacted me a few weeks ago and came for a visit. We ran through some of the questions that I thought were important when assessing to be included in her assessment form. I thought the process was very good and I met her at the hospital so that she could give me the assessment in person. The communication with Heather was very good and had a very good discharge for the resident concerned. I think that this process will benefit us at Honister; firstly if I’m not here, most of my staff live locally and do not drive, and secondly, the staff that do drive do not have, as not usually needed, insurance on their car for business purposes.  The Lister Hospital is also a 30 mile round trip from here so it is sometimes a time issue.”

In her first day on the wards Heather was contacted by the hospital’s discharge team about a lady who had been identified as medically fit for discharge several days previously but the care home had not been able to assess her or review any changes to her needs.

Heather’s assessment took just over an hour, involving reading through the patient’s notes, talking to her and carrying out a visual assessment.

She relayed her findings to the home which were amazed at the level of detail provided and agreed to accept the patient. The ward fast-tracked her transport and medications. The whole process took just four hours!

“My role can make a real difference to the assessment process, saving time and enabling people to get back to the comfort of familiar surroundings,” said Heather, “Working for HCPA enables me to be on the side of care homes”.

For any information regarding the trusted assessor, you can contact Heather directly on or by calling HCPA on 01707 536020