Worcestershire NHS chiefs’ action bid on beds crisis

Droitwich Advertiser: Beds are being blocked at Worcestershire Royal Hospital Beds are being blocked at Worcestershire Royal Hospital

NEW ‘sub-acute’ hospital wards could be created across Worcestershire in a bid to tackle problems with bed blocking.

About 60 beds – the equivalent of three full wards – at Worcestershire Royal and Redditch Alexandra Hospitals are taken up at any given time by patients who are medically fit to be discharged and no longer need an acute hospital bed.

Difficulties in finding suitable beds elsewhere mean it can often be weeks before these patients are discharged – causing huge headaches for hospital bosses as they try to juggle capacity during the busy winter months.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust is using £1 million of extra winter pressure funding from the Government to pay for private nursing home beds while commissioners are also investing heavily in schemes to keep people out of hospital and ensure those who do go in are discharged promptly.

And Simon Trickett, chief operating officer of South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said the balance of hospital beds in the county could be changed to help improve matters.

There are currently about 930 acute hospital beds and 200 community hospital beds in Worcestershire.

But Mr Trickett said: “We did a study and it showed that in total we have slightly more beds than we need in Worcestershire but that the balance between acute beds and community beds was perhaps not quite right.”

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While he said the imbalance in numbers is not “significant”, he said there are thoughts that parts of community hospitals could be used to create ‘sub-acute’ wards.

“It would almost be creating a third category of care,” he said.

Mr Trickett was speaking as Worcestershire’s health overview and scrutiny committee tackled the issue of patient flow.

Mari Gay, director of quality at South Worcestershire CCG, said: “It is very easy to get people into hospital but it is much more complex to get people out.”

She outlined other initiatives being used to try to reduce or avoid hospital stays – including more timely provision of medicines on discharge and better transport home or to ongoing care placements.

Councillor Pat Witherspoon, chairman of Redditch Older People’s Forum, said both areas are currently a common cause for complaint.

“I know transport is getting better but it still breaks down and we have people complaining about the time they have to wait for transport and that when it arrives it is the wrong sort,” she said.

Efforts to improve patient flow are part of a wider programme aimed at providing more integrated care.

The programme has been named by the Government as one of just 14 national ‘pioneers’.

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