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NHS to free up 4,000 hospital beds in time for winter ‘surge’


By Léa Legraien
Reporter
13 June 2018

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The NHS has announced plans to improve patient care by cutting hospital long stays before the ‘surge’ of need in winter.

Speaking at the annual NHS Confederation conference in Manchester today, the chief executives of NHS England and NHS Improvement Simon Stevens and Ian Dalton set out plans to free up 4,000 hospital beds before next winter.

The NHS hopes that working with local authorities will help it achieve its aim to reduce the number of long-staying patients by a quarter before the yearly winter surge.

Their announcement comes after official figures revealed that there were 5,837,000 accident and emergency attendances between December 2017 and February 2018 – 261,000 more than in the same period the previous year.

Shorter stays

Mr Dalton said: ‘No one wants patients to stay in hospital longer than they have to, or for the health of patients to deteriorate in the very place that is supposed to be making them better.

‘But this is happening all too often and we have to work together to change it. Every day in hospital is a precious day away from normal life.

‘By setting this national ambition and working with trusts and local systems to deliver it, we will help more patients to recover safely and as quickly as possible, while ensuring that hospital resources are used for those who need them most.’

Plans to tackle lengthy hospital stays will include:

– Extended GP access to support trusts

– More support for care home staff to prevent residents being admitted

– Regional emergency care intensive support teams charged with helping to reduce the number of long-staying patients by a quarter

– Closing the gap between the number of patients discharged during the week and those sent home on the weekend

– Greater use of alternatives to admissions including emergency day cases and therapy services

– Hospital stays above the best practice guidelines treated as a safety issue that urgently needs addressing, with the time patients spent on wards monitored through the Patient Administration System

According to NHS England, almost 350,000 patients spend over three weeks in a hospital every year, which is around a fifth of beds or 36 hospitals.

Older people a ‘key’ challenge

Patients Association chief executive Rachel Power said that meeting the needs of older people with multiple long-term conditions is a ‘key challenge facing the NHS’.

She added: ‘Prolonged stays in hospital are often not the right solution for these patients.

‘Improved support to ensure patients can stay as well as possible in their own homes, whether immediately after an admission or as a way to prevent one, will be vital in ensuring the NHS meets the changing needs of our population.’

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