Bed blocking in hospitals has tripled in the past five years and with winter around the corner pressures on our hospitals are set to grow.
In east and north Hertfordshire a new role has been introduced to help speed elderly care home residents from hospital, back to their care home once they are well enough to be discharged.
It is one of a package of initiatives in the Vanguard Care Homes programme - a partnership between Hertfordshire County Council, East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Hertfordshire Care Providers Association – working together across health and social care to help keep frail, elderly people at home rather than in hospital
Heather Mc Andrew is a nurse, employed by NHS Vanguard partner HCPA, at the Lister Hospital, Stevenage, to carry out assessments of elderly patients to see whether they are well enough to return to their care homes.
Heather took up her role at the Lister Hospital, Stevenage in August and already figures show a reduction of one/two days in hospital for elderly care home residents. Currently it is a five day service but plans are in hand to extend it to six days and widen the hospital base too.
Heather liaises with the patient, hospital discharge team and care home staff as well as carrying out a comprehensive patient assessment.
Sharon Davies, Chief Executive of the HCPA, a care home membership organisation said: “We hear all too often about delayed discharges and we are delighted to have been given the funding to enable us to place an Impartial Nurse Assessor at the hospital representing private care homes.
“The job involves a huge degree of trust because traditionally care homes have done their own assessments by sending a member of staff to visit the patient in hospital. Heather’s role relieves pressure on care home staff who often have to travel long distances to the Lister in order for residents to be discharged. Sometimes discharges are delayed because the home is facing other pressures on staff time.”
Twenty one care homes have so far used the new service and to date Heather has completed 91 assessments.
Julie Hutchins, Registered Manager at Honister care home, Hatfield, said first impressions of the new Impartial Assessor service were good.
“I thought the process and communication were very good and our resident’s discharge went well.
“I certainly think this process will benefit us at Honister, because most of my staff live locally and do not drive, so cannot pick this task up if I am not around. Lister Hospital is a 30 mile round trip from here, so there is sometimes a time issue on busy days. We look forward to working with Heather again in future.”
Heather added: “Working for the Hertfordshire Care providers Association means that care homes feel that I am on their side and won’t send patients to them who they don’t have the skills or capacity to support look after. Ultimately, I know that I’m helping patients to get the best, most appropriate care in the setting that offers them the best quality of life.”