Mindset change needed in hospitals to stop bed blocking, say Suffolk and Norfolk health chiefs

Ipswich Hospital figures reveal bed blocking has halved. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Ipswich Hospital figures reveal bed blocking has halved. Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

Health bosses in Suffolk and Norfolk have said a change of mindset is needed to question whether hospitals are the best place for patients in order to stop bed blocking.

A report was prepared for Suffolk County Council’s health scrutiny committee over the effective discharge of patients from hospital, highlighting that delays in sending patients home reduced the number of beds available and added more pressure to services.

Figures presented to the committee showed that the average number of DToCs – delayed transfers of care – had halved at Ipswich Hospital last year from the previous year.

While health chiefs are buoyed by the progress, they say a change in mindset is needed, moving from the idea that hospital is the best place to be to questioning the medical need for patients to be there.

Cath Byford, deputy chief officer and director of commissioning at Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The over-arching principal is if they don’t have clinical needs to be in hospital they should not be there.”

Ms Byford said the idea that hospitals were the best place for patients to be has been “ingrained in hospitals for years” and added: “I think we have to have a system change to really flip that round, to really own the principal that if it’s not safe to be in hospital they shouldn’t be here.”

Paul Little, area director for Ipswich and East Suffolk, said the number of patient discharge delays this winter was around half that of the previous winter in Ipswich. He said: “By all of those numbers we are making significant progress.

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“The concept of understanding as early as possible the trajectory of patients and that continued assessment from the point of admission is absolutely the right approach,” he added.

Mr Little said looking at the needs of individual patients and whether services in the community such as physiotherapy could help people go home sooner had been key, as well as regular review meetings of patients.

A ‘discharge to access’ programme has also been developed in east Suffolk which reduces the number of assessments needed in hospitals, which has reduced delays in getting people home. Development work is underway in west Suffolk to roll out the scheme there.

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