£1.25m plan to empty NHS beds across Staffordshire ahead of winter demand
MORE than £1 million is being pumped into extra home care in Staffordshire to try to get patients out of hospital sooner.
Most of the £1.25 million investment will be spent in Newcastle and the Staffordshire Moorlands where most of the bed-blocking patients live.
It has been funded by Staffordshire County Council ahead of the winter when demand for NHS beds traditionally rises.
The cash was released as latest figures show four times more patients from Staffordshire than Stoke-on-Trent are stuck in wards at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
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A snapshot taken on one day last month showed 20 county patients were having their discharges held up – compared with just six from the city.
And in the area's 300-bed community hospitals in Burslem, Longton, Leek, Cheadle and Bradwell, five Staffordshire patients were blocking beds – compared with only one from Stoke-on-Trent.
Health officials have blamed part of the problem on a lack of so-called domiciliary care which includes help with daily tasks such as bathing, eating, cleaning the home and preparing meals.
The University Hospital's 1,100 beds need to be freed up to admit patients taken to its accident unit.
Audley GP Dr Richard Page, head of unplanned care at North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: "If there was a better flow of patients through the system, A&E would have a much better performance with patients who need to be moved, moving at the right time.
"But there are significant issues in the community with availability and capacity of domiciliary care together with the alignment of community services at the time they are needed.
"We welcome this significant new investment by Staffordshire County Council as it is a major issue affecting both admitting people to beds and discharging them after treatment."
Latest figures show an average of 316 people visit the University Hospital's accident unit every day – a nine per cent increase on last year.
And after years of failing to hit Government targets to treat or admit 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours, the accident unit has reached its target for the past nine weeks.
But Dr Page said: "The main barrier to sustaining that improvement is patient flow and we are mapping that through the whole system to identify problem areas and provide us with evidence and information for future commissioning of services."
Hugh Evans, below, director of the programme set up to move services out of the University Hospital, said a group of experts from the Department of Health are currently looking at how well NHS beds were being used locally – plus those in care homes used to take pressure off hospitals.
He said: "Their occupancy rate is currently 97 per cent so this review of looking at the effectiveness of each one of them."