PATIENTS and their families who have experienced treatment and care through the Gwent Frailty Programme, are being asked to tell health watchdogs what they think, as part of a major survey.

The multi-million pound programme, introduced in spring last year, increases the level of care for vulnerable elderly patients in their own homes, keeping them out of hospital where appropriate.

The aim is to shift the balance from hospital to community-based care, through teams of health and social care specialists who respond to referrals to see patients in their homes.

By the end of its first year, at the end of March, the programme had received more than 13,000 referrals across Gwent, with close to 15,000 fewer hospital day beds being used in Gwent.

Gwent Community Health Council (CHC), the independent patients' watchdog, said the programme is being heralded as a model for the rest of Wales to follow, and that people would prefer to be treated at home where safe to do so.

The CHC is making the Frailty Programme its main area of scrutiny this year, and will gather evidence on its effectiveness, and on how it works in each of the five local authority areas in Gwent.

"Within this project we will be looking, in particular, at the contribution of the falls service in supporting people in their home environment, and keeping them out of hospital," said deputy chief officer David Kenny.

The CHC would like feedback - positive and negative - from those with experience of the programme, and of care delivered to the home generally.

The Community Health Council website contains contact details, and from later in the summer will carry questionnaires relating to scrutiny, that can be completed online. Comments can be posted in confidence.