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

Stephen Graves

Stephen Graves - Credit: 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.”


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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.

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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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