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New digital tool tracks number of care home beds

The tool helps the NHS and social care staff find available beds to reduce avoidable lengthy stays in hospital

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

A new digital portal is being introduced by the NHS and councils which allows health and social care staff to see how many vacancies there are in local care homes.

The tool will save staff hours of time phoning around to check availability and helping patients get out of hospitals more quickly.


In 2018, around a quarter of a million hospital bed days in England were taken up by people who were medically fit enough to be discharged, but who faced delays in an appropriate care home being found that could meet their recovery needs.

The NHS, working with councils, reduced the number of lost bed days by 20% between 2017 and last year, and making the new tool – the Capacity Tracker – more widely available, is one of a number of measures being taken to further reduce unnecessary delays leaving hospital.

Over 6,250 care homes have already signed up to the Capacity Tracker tool, piloted in the North, Devon and Berkshire last year. The tool provides a ‘shop window’ for care homes to share their vacancies as well as other important information about the care home, to enable an informed choice to be made by patients and their families.

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England said: “One of the central ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan is to better support people to age well, and that means joining up different services locally to better meet people’s needs.

“By using this technology to work together more closely, hospitals, local authorities and care homes can ensure that people get the right care in the right place at the right time, and aren’t left waiting in hospital unnecessarily.

“Working with our local government, hospitals and community services as well as patients and their families has been essential to developing this new approach and will be key to rolling it out everywhere.”

Jo Chilton, programme director, Adult Social Care Transformation Programme at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The Capacity Tracker was first introduced to Greater Manchester in 2017. We are pleased with the uptake it has had with care homes and health and social care teams across our localities now having quicker and better access to vacancy information. We have been impressed with the speed at which the Capacity Tracker support team have been able to on-board care homes over a very short space of time.”

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