A simple red bag that helps reduce the time care home residents spend in hospital - and making their stay less stressful - is now being used by 21 Merton care homes.

The ‘Red Bag Procedure’ means that when a care home resident needs to go into hospital, a red bag is packed for them containing their personal details, vital information about their health conditions, supplies of regular medicine, personal items and a change of clothes for when they are ready to be discharged. The bag is handed to ambulance staff who pass it to hospital staff on arrival.

The Red Bag Procedure aims to ensure a quick and easy way to guarantee that essential documents and personal items follow the resident from arrival to discharge back to the care home.

Dr Andrew Murray, chairman of Merton GP and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said: “Like many good ideas, the red bag is a really simple concept. The vital information in the red bag helps doctors and nurses treat the patient quickly and more effectively. It also means there’s less likely to be a delay in getting the patient home from hospital”.

The London Ambulance Service is also a big fan of the scheme, which they said makes the service 'more patient focussed'.

LAS clinical team leader Jason Morris said: "Because the paperwork is standardised for every patient the handover to the ambulance crew is much more efficient. The process of transferring patients from the care home to hospital is faster, and when patients arrive in hospital they received the care they need much quicker”.

The scheme began in Sutton, where statistics showed the average length of stay was three to four days shorter for those with a red bag.