Drive to free up beds at busy Colchester Hospital to avoid appointment and operation cancellations

Colchester Hospital. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Colchester Hospital. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Colchester Hospital is launching a new fight against bed blocking, as the trust’s chief executive reveals up to 100 patients are on the books in any one day who are medically fit to go home.

Nick Hulme, CEO of Colchester and Ipswich hospitals. Picture: COLCHESTER HOSPITAL

Nick Hulme, CEO of Colchester and Ipswich hospitals. Picture: COLCHESTER HOSPITAL - Credit: Archant

Nick Hulme said the hospital had been working at full capacity for the past couple of weeks, and if something doesn’t change then appointments and operations will have to be cancelled.

Next week the hospital will try the “red to green scheme”, which will see staff looking at every patient in every bed each day, deciding who needs to be there and who doesn’t and figuring out what needs to happen to get them discharged.

Mr Hulme, who is also chief executive of Ipswich Hospital, said the trust would be working closely on this scheme with outside organisations, such as nursing homes and social services, which may be stopping patients from being able to leave hospital.

If it goes well, Mr Hulme said he hoped to roll it out at Colchester permanently, like it has been at Ipswich.

He said: “We are aware that we will have up to 100 patients in Colchester on any one day who are medically fit for discharge, so there is no clinical reason why they are in hospital. They are just waiting for something either internally or they are waiting for something externally.

“Those 100 beds are a really, really precious resource for the local community. The hospital is full, which is unusual in July, and therefore we need to create that capacity otherwise we are going to have to start cancelling appointments or operations, and we don’t want to have to go down that route.

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“So this is a way of facilitating those patients to get home as soon as is safe for them to go home. Most importantly we learn those new ways of working, those different techniques and embed them into the day to day running of the hospital.”

An older population and a growing population in Colchester have contributed to an increase in demand on the hospital, Mr Hulme said, shutting down the “myth” that the wards were only busy in the winter months.

Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford has been experiencing similar pressures this week, with bosses urging patients to only attend in a genuine emergency.