New scheme in Stevenage and North Herts will help prevent hospital bed-blocking

Rachael Corser, director of nursing at the East and North Herts NHS Trust.

Rachael Corser, director of nursing at the East and North Herts NHS Trust. - Credit: Archant

A scheme to support elderly patients returning home after being discharged from hospital is being piloted in North Herts and Stevenage to help prevent bed-blocking.

Bed-blocking is the long-term occupation of hospital beds - chiefly by elderly people - due to a shortage of suitable care elsewhere.

The Discharge Home to Assess pilot benefits patients well enough to be discharged, but who need support to complete their recovery. For instance, someone who has had a fall might need physiotherapy at home, help with cleaning and cooking, and community nurse visits.

Patients’ needs are assessed by their own GP and the service can support up to 20 patients at a time, for up to an expected three weeks.

Herts GP Hari Pathmanathan said: “We know that a prolonged hospital stay can result in a loss of confidence and muscle wastage, particularly when a patient is elderly or frail. We are at the early stages of this scheme, but it seems that when people are back at home, in their familiar environments, they recover more quickly.”

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Rachael Corser, the director of nursing at the East and North Herts NHS Trust, which manages Lister Hospital in Stevenage, said this scheme will play an important part in making hospital beds available to patients who really need them.

She said: “We already have a low rate of patients waiting for care in an alternative setting, but this scheme will still have a significant impact.

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“The reason the number of patients experiencing delayed transfer of care is so low is down to working well with our partners across the county, including Herts County Council, GPs, community services and the voluntary sector.

“The best place to assess someone is at home, because in hospital you can’t get a real sense of what patients are able to do, and patients generally get better more quickly at home.”

Dr Elizabeth Kendrick, clinical lead for the project, says people are delighted to be able to leave hospital earlier than they had thought possible, with the right care available.

She said: “Over the three-week period after leaving hospital, we have found that the amount of care patients need substantially reduces. Some people have been able to return to completely independent living.”

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