Delays relating to the discharge of people out of hospitals once their need for specialised care ends, have reached crisis point at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.
The delays have been a recurrent issue for the wider NHS over the years, but a significant rise in the number of emergency admissions as a result of the ageing population, has seen the issue spiral out of control.
Delayed discharges caused almost 8,000 bed days to be lost up until November of last year, which represents a loss of £6.3 million to the NHS over the last three years. Ten per cent of the high levels are attributed to social care, while the remaining 90 per cent are caused by other parts of the NHS or a combination of both.
In the first month of this year, the delayed discharge problem at the Trust peaked, with 142 beds being occupied by patients who did not require specialist hospital care any longer.
Bosses at the trust have confirmed that these numbers have now fallen, but added that there were still around 80 such patients occupying beds at any one time. There are plans afoot to lower the number of these bed blockers to between 20 and 30, by providing increased levels of care outside of hospital. Other plans include a boost to care in the community or in people’s own homes, however, say hospital chiefs, this will not happen straight away and they are calling for a faster response to the problem.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust has suggested that it is planning to issue fines for delayed discharge which come about as a result of the social care system. The leader of Worcestershire County Council, Adrian Hardman, also confirmed that he had brought together a group of senior managers to work on finding a solution to the issue, which is causing some patients to have their operations cancelled as a result of a lack of beds.
A Patient Flow Centre has also been created, which will be implemented from next month, and will see NHS staff and the county council’s social care team located in the same place in order that they can better share patient information to ensure discharges are planned in a more effective manner.
Chairman of the Trust, Harry Turner, told the Bromsgrove Standard that the situation would be reviewed next month, after which point “we should draw a line in the sand and at that point we do move into crisis mode”.
He added: “It’s a financial issue, and the pressure on our finances is not insignificant, but it’s affecting people’s lives and that to me is the issue we have to deal with."