Hospital transfer delays at crisis point

By Ian Dipple Friday 07 March 2014 Updated: 07/03 09:47

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Buy photos » Pershore residents could face long journeys to Redditch's Alexandra Hospital. (s)

DELAYS moving people out of hospital when they no longer need care are reaching crisis levels.

Bosses at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust are considering taking the unprecedented step of declaring a lack of confidence in the wider health system's plans to deal with the problem unless there is an urgent improvement.

Transferring people out of hospital once they no longer need specialised care has been a recurring problem for the NHS over the years but has neared crunch point due to the increasing number of emergency admissions, fuelled by a rapidly ageing population.

The Standard reported last month how almost 8,000 bed days had been lost due to delayed discharges up until November, and £6.3million lost over the last three years. About ten per cent of delays are caused by social care with the rest by other parts of the NHS or a combination of both.

In January the problem peaked with 142 beds being taken up by patients who no longer needed to be there and although it has fallen back there is still about 80 people on the list at any one time.

There are plans to cut the number to between 20 and 30 by providing more care out of hospital and in the community or people's own homes, however that is likely to take time. But hospital chiefs say a more immediate response is needed as the situation is affecting patients, particularly those requiring operations who are having their surgery cancelled because of a lack of beds.

Adrian Hardman, leader of Worcestershire County Council, has agreed to set-up a group of senior managers to look at the problem while the Trust has also signalled it is moving closer to issuing fines for delays caused by the social care system.

Trust chairman Harry Turner said they would review the situation in April.

"I think we should draw a line in the sand and at that point we do move into crisis mode. 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."

In response, a Patient Flow Centre is being set-up from April which will involve locating staff from the NHS and the county council's social care team in the same place to share patient information more accurately to help plan discharges more effectively.

Simon Trickett, chief operating officer for NHS South Worcestershire CCG, said: "All partners agree we don't want patients to have to stay in an acute hospital bed when they could be supported at home or in a care setting closer to home. It isn't in anyone's interest for there to be any unnecessary delays in these transfers of care and how we work collectively to manage these is a significant priority for us."

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