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Bed-blocking targeted with winter health cash
HOSPITAL bosses are ploughing Worcestershire’s £1 million of extra winter funding into a bid to beat the blight of bed-blocking.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust was one of 53 ‘at risk’ NHS trusts nationwide awarded an amount from a £250 million government pot to help them cope with winter pressures.
Although chief executive Penny Venables was disappointed that Worcestershire’s share seemed “disproportionate” compared to other health economies, she pledged the money would be used to take as much pressure off frantic A&E departments as possible over the winter months.
Now the trust has revealed that it plans to aim both barrels at the long-running problem of bed-blocking – where patients no longer need acute care but continue to take up space because of delays discharging them elsewhere.
Even with a slight reduction in recent weeks there are currently on average more than 60 patients taking up beds unnecessarily at any one time – the equivalent of three full wards.
With no signs of any significant improvement, the acute trust has decided to take matters into its own hands and use its extra winter cash to pay for community and nursing home beds.
Director of resources Chris Tidman said this will allow patients to have their ongoing care needs assessed without taking up much-needed hospital beds. But board members are also seeking a longer-term solution to bed-blocking. Non-executive director Andrew Sleigh said: “What really worries me is that we are talking about three wards full of patients who should not be there.
“I think if you told that situation to the man in the street he would be quite alarmed. It is damaging us and it is damaging other parts of the economy. It is not good for our patients and it is not good for our finances.”
But Mrs Venables and chief operating officer Stewart Messer said they have been heartened by discussions over the problem with commissioners and believe improvements will soon be seen.
Mr Messer said commissioner targets will initially aim to halve the number of beds being blocked – down to a more manageable 30 at any one time. He said achieving this ambition would allow the trust to close its Highfield ward – which although on paper an additional winter facility – has remained open all year because of the pressure on beds.
This could potentially lead to Highfield being used to offer additional surgical capacity.