The latest report from Government has revealed new steps to encourage hospitals and local authorities to work together with out-of-hospital services to alleviate the issue of people being kept in hospital longer than necessary. A very positive step forward in my eyes and the only way to ensure people, especially older people, are recovering in a suitable environment.
The report acknowledges that measures for the Better Care Fund (the £5.3bn fund announced by the Government in June 2013 to ensure a transformation in integrated health and social care) are not working as well as they could. The recommended next stage is for CCGs to work directly with out of hospital services to develop schemes that are best suited for different circumstances.
There has been an outcry of criticism of the NHS but I don't think there has been a big enough focus on the solutions that are available. In media we so often see the term "bed blocking" which has such negative connotations and suggests some fault on the person in the hospital beds when this couldn't be further from the truth. There are already a number of pilot schemes up and running, supporting older people and doing things differently and better.
There is an obvious link between age and likelihood of being stuck in hospital for longer than is medically needed. Older people may take longer to recover from falls or operations, there may not be anyone else to help them at home, or their home might not be set out in a safe way while they are recovering. A care home setting is a great and much cheaper alternative to remaining in hospital.
We know we have an ageing population, we know we have extra pressure being placed on NHS services all the time, but there is something that we can do to help.
One scheme we have been working on is at Kerria Court care home in Birmingham. Anchor and Birmingham CCG have a system in place that alleviates some of the pressure on hospital beds. Kerria Court offers a number of specifically ringfenced beds to Birmingham CCG for former hospital patients to occupy when they no longer require medical treatment in a hospital, but are not yet able to return home. From ensuring people get enough rest, to helping with bathing, an extra hand is all that people need to move out of hospital.
Many of the people who have stayed at Kerria Court for recuperation are living with dementia, which can often add another dimension to the care they need. Hospitals are, by their very nature, busy and frantic places that can be uncomfortable for many people living with dementia. A care home can do so much with the resources they already have available, with specially trained staff and a calm atmosphere.
It's going to be interesting to see how many more relationships are developed between out-of-hospital services and local CCGs. The demand is certainly there and it can be a much more cost effective solution.