New plan to tackle bed-blocking

By James MortlockA HEALTH care shake-up designed to stop bed-blockers clogging up hospitals and to cut the need for long-term residential care has been launched.

By James Mortlock

A HEALTH care shake-up designed to stop bed-blockers clogging up hospitals and to cut the need for long-term residential care has been launched.

The Intermediate Care Strategy has been unveiled by health and social care organisations in west Suffolk.

It comes as a plan for a 60-bed care home in Bury St Edmunds was welcomed as a major step forward in the battle to ease the current bed-blocking crisis – where patients are well enough to leave hospital, but adequate care cannot be found for them in the community.

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Health bosses said the main aims of the strategy were to reduce inappropriate admission to hospital, cut the length of hospital stays and reduce the need for long-term residential care.

Its central planks would be to use existing money more effectively, with particular emphasis put on keeping people who do not need to be in hospital at home rather than assuming the best place for them is on a ward.

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The launch, hosted by the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust in Bury St Edmunds, focused on intermediate care, which does not require the resources of a general hospital, but which is beyond the scope of the traditional GP.

A spokesman said the strategy aimed to recognise the needs of each individual patient – whether they were waiting for surgery or recovering from an operation, needed purely medical treatment or required help with everyday living.

More emphasis would be placed on opportunities for rehabilitation, which would in turn help people to maintain their independence and prevent unnecessary long-term use of nursing homes.

The spokesman said a number of care services were already in place to promote faster recovery from illness, prevent unnecessary acute hospital admission, support timely discharge and help people to live independently.

"It is all about improving well-being by raising the quality of healthcare services," he added

Jonathan Williams, the primary care trust's director of clinical services, said: "Intermediate care is not an optional extra, it is central to the modernisation of the NHS. It is all about providing the right care for the right people at the right time.

"It is not the domain of any single profession or organisation. Partnership is at the heart of intermediate care – professions and organisations working together to make person-centred care a reality."

He added: "It's about using the money we already have more effectively. There are plenty of resources around, but we aren't necessarily using them in the right way.

"Services which are currently provided from hospital may be more efficient if people receive them in their own homes. We want to help people to stay in their own homes for as long as possible, rather than assuming that the best place for them is in hospital."

There were 30 bed-blockers last week at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and Walnuttree Hospital in Sudbury.

In October, an investment of £1.5million was announced to combat the problem. The funding will be used to pay for home carers and physiotherapists to look after people in their own homes rather than in the dwindling number of residential homes.

Meanwhile, Festival Care Homes Ltd – which has submitted a plan to turn the former community center in Symonds Road, Bury St Edmunds, into a care home – said the scheme would meet a desperate need.

Managing director, Richard Thomas, hoped the care home would be given approval in the next few weeks and believed it could be open within a year.

Joanna Spicer, county councillor and former chairman of the primary care trust, welcomed the application.

"There is a great shortage of residential and nursing care for the frail elderly in the west and one of the reasons there are still too many delayed discharges in hospitals is because there is a shortage of beds," she said.

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