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Bury St Edmunds: Bed blockers and lack of community beds costing West Suffolk Hospital up to £2million

PUBLISHED: 13:00 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 17:36 25 April 2014

Stephen Graves

Stephen Graves

Archant

A desperate lack of beds to care for people in the community is costing West Suffolk Hospital up to £2million, its chief executive has claimed.

Stephen Graves said that a “notable number of medically fit patients” at the hospital combined with a “considerable” lack of community beds compared with other health systems was adding to the hospital’s financial woes.

A new report says that as many as 60 of the 430 beds at West Suffolk are taken up by so-called bed blockers – patients who are medically fit, able to be cared for elsewhere, or awaiting transfer.

Community healthcare services are commissioned by the West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and are currently delivered by Serco, with a CCG spokesman last night saying it was committed to commissioning community care that meets patients’ needs.

The news comes amid a growing effort to further integrate healthcare services and ease pressure on the hospital, which has been branded financially non-viable by the CCG unless changes can be made.

Mr Graves said: “Whilst not all of the patients able to leave hospital need a bed, many do.

“It is, therefore, important that there are sufficient beds outside hospital to meet the patient’s needs on discharge – step down – and also for GPs to use to avoid an acute admission.

“If the number of beds was more aligned to other health systems, then the financial benefit to this hospital would be more than £1m, and probably nearer £2m.”

Recent work by the Kings Fund found health systems in rural areas tend to have the lowest number of acute beds. While the west Suffolk area should have between 65 and 160 community beds to match services in other areas, in reality it only has 36.

“This helps explain why we have such a notable number of medically fit patients,” added Mr Graves.

The hospital is due to end this year with a deficit of around £4m, but Mr Graves said more community beds combined with a targeted 15% reduction in A&E activity would have seen it close to breaking even.

A CCG spokesman said: “The CCG is committed to delivering community health services that enable local people to receive the right level of care that meets their needs.

“With an ageing population, it is important that future community health services are focussed and shaped to meet the predicted increased demand.

“With our healthcare partners, including West Suffolk Hospital, we are developing a strategy which will mean every frail, elderly patient will receive an integrated package of support and care. This strategy is set to be finalised in June.”

Renegotiations for the provision of community healthcare in Suffolk will soon begin, with Serco’s contract due to end in October next year.

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The Orwell Bridge is expected to close for the third time this winter as high winds are forecast again on Wednesday night.

Essex Wildlife Trust has responded to reports that a black panther has been sighted in a rural village in the county.

Feeling safe on the streets, career prospects and retirement plans are among the top concerns for women in Suffolk and Essex, a survey reveals.

Proposals to build a new multi-million pound rail depot on the Suffolk/Essex border at Brantham near Manningtree are being reconsidered by Greater Anglia.

A mentally-ill Bury St Edmunds man accused of killing a 57-year-old man by stabbing him multiple times has admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

A crash between a van and a car this morning has closed a rural Suffolk road.

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