'Bed blocker' drop in local hospitals

THE number of patients waiting to be discharged from hospital into community care has “dropped significantly” over the past few months, according to health bosses.

THE number of patients waiting to be discharged from hospital into community care has “dropped significantly” over the past few months, according to health bosses.

A reduction of up to 75pc in the number of patients who are “bed-blocking” - when they are cleared to leave hospital by their consultant but there is no community bed or social care for them - has been attributed to NHS and social care organisations working together over the past year.

There has been closer working between NHS Norfolk, health care providers and Norfolk County Council Adult Social Services, who together created a winter “capacity plan” at the end of last summer to reduce bed blocking over the months ahead.

It means better care for patients and more beds available in our over-pressured hospitals to treat other patients.

Julie Garbutt, chief executive of NHS Norfolk, said: “There is no doubt that by reducing the pressure on hospitals this winter, we have delivered better care for the people of Norfolk.”

David Harwood, cabinet member for Norfolk County Council Adult Social Services, said: “Delayed transfer of care is a very high priority for all health and social care services in Norfolk, and we are working in partnership to ensure that we meet the needs of patients as they move through the discharge process.

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“Despite a significant increase in admissions and demand, we have successfully reduced the number of patients currently waiting to be discharged from hospital awaiting social care packages or placements over the past two years.”

The numbers of patients awaiting transfer to community care from either the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital or the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, has been monitored every day. The James Paget University Hospital, in Gorleston, falls under NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney.

The highest number of patients waiting for a community bed this winter has been 22 at the N&N. On many occasions the number of patients waiting for a community bed was in single figures and on some occasions there were no patients waiting, according to health officials.

This compares to last year when the highest number of people waiting for a bed was 52.

However, due to the winter vomiting bug norovirus, there were 47 delayed discharges earlier this month.

One of the traditional busy weeks for demand on hospitals is around half term - but in the two weeks from February 15 this year, the average number of delayed discharges per day was just 10.

Initiatives put in place to achieve this have specifically included: the commissioning of 50 beds at community hospitals run by Norfolk Community Health and Care and also at nursing homes; plus more medical cover in community hospitals at weekends; the opening of 54 extra beds at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital; Norfolk Adult Social Services committed additional resources to increase capacity when needed, including 75 extra beds for discharge planning.

Although the winter plan period has now drawn to a close, NHS and Adult Social Services are embarking on a new round of planning extending into the whole year from April 2010.