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Health chiefs aim to halve bed-blocking

PUBLISHED: 09:58 09 April 2009 | UPDATED: 13:38 03 July 2010

HEALTH chiefs aim to cut bed-blocking in half at Norfolk's biggest hospital this year.

Community hospital beds are likely to be used for much sicker patients in future in a bid to get them used as much of the time as possible, and to free up capacity at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

HEALTH chiefs aim to cut bed-blocking in half at Norfolk's biggest hospital this year.

Community hospital beds are likely to be used for much sicker patients in future in a bid to get them used as much of the time as possible, and to free up capacity at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

After a busy winter at the N&N, in which the number of beds blocked rose as high as 82, the numbers are back down to between 30 and 38 over the last couple of weeks.

But NHS Norfolk, which has been working with the N&N to reduce it, says it wants the figures to be much lower. Steve Davies, interim director of performance, said: “We have an agreement with the N&N that we will allow 32 delayed discharges at any time. My view is that we should not tolerate that many, we should reduce that to 16. That will be during the second half of the year.”

The primary care trust, which covers central and west Norfolk, has recently appointed John Manning as interim head of planning. One of his priorities is reducing bed-blocking, and he is already working on making sure Norfolk's health system is ready for next winter.

Mr Davies acknowledged that there would always be some delays, particularly where patients have complicated care needs or their homes need adapting before they can go home. But he said: “This is the priority for me. I am very confident we will go into next winter having learned the lessons of last winter.”

And he said they were looking at beds across Norfolk hospitals to make sure they were being used most efficiently, with questions such as: “Are the beds in the right place? Are they accessible to the patients that need them?”

He said there are typically 20 empty community beds at any one time, which are generally in north Norfolk. But he said he was aware of the need to make sure rural areas are served, rather than simply putting all the county's beds in Norwich.

He said: “The issue is around acuity [the level of medical care]. For example, if a ward only has nursing care it might not be suitable for some older patients with complex needs. The number of beds will stay the same but the acuity may change.”

Director of finance David Stonehouse said: “In layman's terms, you will start to look at sicker and sicker people in the community.”

A N&N spokesman said: “While there are the usual periods of intense demand on the hospital, the picture overall is better than it was in February when medical emergency admissions were up 21pc on the same period a year ago. There is a much higher satisfaction with privacy and dignity at the N&N compared to the NHS elsewhere and we have had positive feedback from patients.”

Norwich North MP Ian Gibson said: “It sounds like a big effort has been made but I am looking forward to seeing how long this will continue. I am pleased the number of blocked beds has been reduced, but I really think the hospital needs more beds.”


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