Updated: Sep 27
Thousands of NHS patients will be moved into care homes as part of the government's plan to free up 2500 beds and ease the pressure on our hospitals.
Yesterday afternoon the health secretary and Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay announced 250 million pounds to buy thousands of beds in care homes and upgrade hospital capacity.
Bosses at Addenbrookes say that beds are taken up by patients who are well enough to go home but the aftercare staff simply aren’t there to take care of them. The shortage of staff is taking a toll on the NHS and is something that the public feel desperately needs to be taken care of.
Nadra Ahmed, the chairman of the National Care Association says “we don’t want this quick discharge out. Notes need to be available so the NHS has to get this right now. But more importantly, once we have discharged people we need to make sure there is a wrap-around service. This is about people's lives and they may not have been thinking that they were going to go into a residential setting but they may have to at this stage until we can find them the home care support that they need because that is where the staffing crisis is much much more acute.”
The government has added this to its website: “The additional £200 million - on top of the £500 million Adult Social Care Discharge Fund already announced which reached the frontline in December and is already helping discharge people more quickly - will fund maximum stays of up to 4 weeks per patient until the end of March. Integrated care boards - organisations that arrange health services in each local area - will begin booking beds that are most appropriate to patients’ needs.”
Some are wondering what happens in 4 weeks. What if the patient needs more treatment that is longer than 4 weeks? Some care homes are worried that it will just move the problem onto them rather than solve it.
There are also concerns that if the 4 weeks are not enough and local authorities can only pay for a small amount, care homes will be left underpaid for their work.
The lack of funding and need for staff could cause pressure on the patients themselves and force them to sell assets and possessions to accumulate the missing funds enabling them to receive the care they need.
Daniel Zeichner, local Labour MP for Cambridge, told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire “There is nothing new in this. Remember that when the conservatives were elected back in 2019 they said they had a plan. What’s increasingly clear is that there has been no plan. The system has been struggling along and I'm afraid the announcement yesterday are very very feeble sticking plaster and it doesn’t get anywhere near the complexity of the situation”
The uphill battle the NHS has been fighting is something that has been continuing for many years and the realisation is only just hitting the UK government that the NHS is coming to a standstill if the pressure isn’t resolved. This means solutions for the problem and not passing the baton which seems to be the government's current plan. Of course, the hope is that this plan works and the NHS can start to heal, however, not everyone's illness’ are going to be cured in 4 weeks.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, said: “The NHS is under enormous pressure from COVID-19 and flu, and on top of tackling the backlog caused by the pandemic, strep A and upcoming strikes, this winter poses an extreme challenge.
I am taking urgent action to reduce pressure on the health service, including investing an additional £200 million to enable the NHS to immediately buy up beds in the community to safely discharge thousands of patients from hospitals and free up hospital capacity, on top of the £500 million we’ve already invested to tackle this issue.
In addition, we are trialling 6 National Discharge Frontrunners - innovative, quick solutions which could reduce discharge delays, moving patients from hospital to home more quickly.”
In hopes to free more hospital beds, the NHS is rolling out virtual wards across England as part of plans to deliver the equivalent of 7,000 more beds using a mix of hospital and virtual wards.
The NHS has the ambition to set up 40 to 50 virtual beds per 100,000 population by 2024.
Virtual wards are where people who, for example, have acute respiratory infections, can actually be treated at home with telemedicine or pulse oximeters.
They have consistent communication with medical professionals via phone and video call to be able to monitor progress and treatment.
So far the virtual ward has had a little over 100 patients and feedback has been very positive from patients.
The virtual ward has freed an estimated 300 - 400 hospital bed days (the amount of time someone spends in hospital.)