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NHS chiefs set out ambition to cut long inpatient stays by 25%

Aim is to free up 4000 beds before the next winter pressures kick in

Caroline White

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

NHS chiefs are set to announce an ambition to cut long inpatient stays in hospitals by around a quarter, with the aim of freeing up more than 4000 beds, in a bid to ease pressures next winter.

Nearly 350,000 patients spend more than three weeks in a hospital each year. That is around a fifth of beds, or the equivalent of 36 hospitals.

The plans, which will involve collaboration with local authorities, will be announced at the annual NHS Confederation conference in Manchester today by Simon Stevens and Ian Dalton, the chief executives, respectively, of NHS England and NHS Improvement.

Simon Stevens said: “Over this past year hospitals and local councils have successfully worked together and have turned the corner on delays in patients being discharged. Now they need to go further in order to ensure patients are treated with dignity and looked after in the right setting for them.”

The joint announcement comes as the NHS is drawing up plans for next winter after having struggled to cope this winter with record numbers of A&E attendances and emergency admissions.

NHS Improvement’s chief executive, Ian Dalton, said that his organisation and NHS England are determined to tackle the issue of bed availability before the onset of next winter, with a message going out to the system, including chief executives of acute trusts, CCGs and the chairs of health and wellbeing boards, calling on them to act now.

He said: “No one wants patients to stay in hospital longer than they have to, or for the health of patients to deteriorate in the very place that is supposed to be making them better. But this is happening all too often and we have to work together to change it. Every day in hospital is a precious day away from normal life.

“By setting this national ambition and working with trusts and local systems to deliver it, we will help more patients to recover safely and as quickly as possible, while ensuring that hospital resources are used for those who need them most.”

Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Meeting the needs of older people who have complex combinations of long-term conditions is a key challenge facing the NHS. Prolonged stays in hospital are often not the right solution for these patients. Improved support to ensure patients can stay as well as possible in their own homes, whether immediately after an admission or as a way to prevent one, will be vital in ensuring the NHS meets the changing needs of our population.”

The new drive aims to build on the success of the NHS and local councils in tackling delayed transfers of care, which fell to 4880 in January, 1780 fewer than the baseline month of February 2017.

To meet the ambition, NHS trusts will be expected to close the gap between the number of patients discharged during the week and those sent home at the weekend and make greater use of alternatives to admission such as emergency day cases or therapy services.

Hospital stays above the best practice guidelines will be treated as a safety issue that urgently needs addressing with the time patients have spent on wards closely monitored through the Patient Administration System.

Trusts will be supported by extended GP access and a focus on avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions, including more support for care home staff to prevent residents being admitted. There will also be regional emergency care intensive support teams charged with helping to deliver the ambition.

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