Extra funding for Colchester Hospital to reduce bed blockers welcomed by health bosses

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Health chiefs have welcomed extra funding for Colchester hospital in a bid to reduce the number of ‘bed-blockers’.

Essex County Council is expected to approve £500,000 from the Better Care Fund to the hospital trust to tackle delayed transfers of care (DTOCs).

DTOC is where a patient is deemed medically able to leave hospital, but is unable to as there is no appropriate care available at their home or a residential or nursing home space for them – or if they choose to stay.

Colchester General Hospital and north-east Essex has been identified by the authority as a hotspot area for DTOCs, and particularly that Colchester has the highest proportion of those caused by a delay in social care.

NHS England figures show in August there were 733 days of DTOCs from Colchester, 466 of which were due to patients waiting for assessment, a care package or funding, home adaptations or equipment, or a care home placement. In contrast Mid Essex Hospital Trust had 570.

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As well as the £500k, the county council also aims to spend £1.25million across the county to boost multi-disciplinary discharge teams – including a rapid response team at Colchester – to help people back into their homes after a hospital stay, and £1.042m on discharge to assess services, where patients can have a full needs assessment at home or in a ‘step-down’ bed.

The county council’s cabinet will discuss a report on Better Care Funding during a meeting tomorrow.

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Nick Hulme, chief executive of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We welcome additional funding targeted at addressing delayed transfers of care at Colchester and continue to work closely on the issue with our partners, including Essex County Council.

“Evidence shows it is not in the best interests of patients to stay in hospital longer than clinically appropriate and we remain committed to getting patients home as soon as it is safe to do so.

“We acknowledge sometimes our hospital is also responsible for the delays and we are working hard to make sure our own processes happen as quickly as possible.”

Dr David Sollis, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex, said: “DTOC has major impact on patients, carers and family members. It is our view that the number of delayed days means a huge number of people are taking longer to get better.

“Moving people from hospital is not straightforward – people have different needs and even though a person may be physically ready to leave, they may have emotional, psychological and social challenges to factor in. Another issue includes standardised approaches to sending people home, when people have different needs. Such factors are hidden in the language of numbers alone and a deeper understanding of people’s experiences is vital to these discussions.

“The numbers do indicate a need to make critical changes to transferring care. On the other hand, patients and relatives not accepting places to be transferred to puts added strain on the system. As NHS England data points out, the biggest cause of DTOC is (lack of) patient and family choice.

“The Better Care Fund monies should improve DTOC if extra staff can be recruited and more social care is made available in the community.”

A spokesman for the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, which has oversight of DTOCs, said: “We’re working closely with social care colleagues in reducing DTOCs within acute, community and mental health services, reducing the number of attendances and admissions through A&E and putting services in place within their home to prevent them from going into residential care.

“We are committed to ensuring our local patients receive the highest standards of care and support to ensure they are able to live as independently as possible.”

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