NHS: "Trusted suppliers" enlisted to ease bed-blocking pressures as tough winter looms
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A dozen of the NHS' most "trusted suppliers" have been asked to step up to ease inbound winter pressures on the health service.
Health officials have created a one-stop shop, the NHS Shared Business Services (SBS), so hospitals in England can find companies which can help them get medically fit patients out of hospital beds.
The 12 companies listed can help with a number services including discharging patients, virtual ward support and mental health “step down care bed services”.
Some of the companies can also provide “third party brokerage services” which means they can help find suitable care for patients and save hospital workers from trying to find support for patients outside of the hospital.
Elaine Alsop, from NHS SBS, said: “Delays in discharge processes and limited capacity in social and community care, are making it challenging for NHS hospitals and mental health services to discharge patients appropriately.
“They remain inpatients, placing further strain on hospital resources, reducing the number of hospital beds available for new admissions, and at higher risk of hospital-acquired infections, loss of mobility, independence and re-admission.”
The move forms part of the NHS’ preparations for what is expected to be a tough winter. Other plans include social care “traffic control centres” and cash incentives for hospital performance in emergency care.
The centres, likened to travel agents for social care, will act as a single place for staff across the health, care and voluntary sectors to co-ordinate the best and quickest discharge options for patients – either at home or into social or community care.
Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS in England, said: “There is no doubt social care services are under pressure which is having a knock-on effect on bed capacity in the NHS – with more than 12,000 patients in hospital beds daily who are medically fit for discharge.
“This is why we are rolling out ‘care traffic control’ centres so staff can locate and co-ordinate the best and quickest discharge options for patients – either at home or into social or community care – and any initiative to make this easier for hospitals is welcome.”
Hundreds of patients are taking up hospital beds across England every day despite being ready to leave, due to hold-ups in sorting transport, medicines and paperwork, or because they have nowhere to be discharged to.
Disagreements between a patient or their family and medical staff, plus the need to install specialist equipment in a person’s home, are among other reasons for delays.
But the biggest obstacle to the speedy discharge of patients, who are often elderly and frail, is lack of beds in other settings, such as care homes or community hospitals.