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PostSubject: Bed blocking problem 'improving'   Bed blocking problem 'improving' I_icon_minitimeFri Nov 04, 2011 3:51 am

Fewer people are being affected by bed blocking in Welsh hospitals because of greater management co-operation, a Wales Audit Office report has found.

Tracking the progress made since 2007, the auditor said a long term strategy was needed to maintain improvements.

Bed blocking mainly affects vulnerable elderly people who have nowhere to convalesce after hospital treatment.

The assembly government said it supported joint working between the NHS and social services with grants.

Bed blocking cost the NHS in Wales £69m in 2006-07.

Tougher targets were set by the Welsh assembly government last autumn because of worries over progress on resolving the issue.

On average, around 500 patients in Wales take up hospital beds unnecessarily because of delays in discharging them.

The Wales Audit Office (WAO) says this also affects the patient, because they can lose mobility, mental and physical function and ultimately their independence.

Such delays also harm wider service delivery and performance across the whole health and social care system, it added.

I am pleased to note the improvements in the impact and extent of delayed transfers of care
Jeremy Colman, Wales Auditor General

The latest report by Wales Auditor General Jeremy Colman tracks the progress made on bed blocking in hospitals since 2007, when it was found patients fit to leave hospital were facing up to 100 days on a ward.

Mr Colman looked at bed blocking throughout Wales, but focused on problems in Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan, Gwent and Carmarthenshire, where he found "evidence of some improvements".

Mr Colman said: "Hospital delays can have a very negative effect on the independence of vulnerable older patients.

"I am pleased to note the improvements in the impact and extent of delayed transfers of care, and the more serious approach taken by the assembly government and local partners since our first report.

"There remains, however, a need for the assembly government to consider my recommendations and in particular to take advantage of the opportunities to develop a more robust holistic approach to promoting independence which the ongoing reconfiguration of the NHS in Wales may provide."

'Considerable reduction'

The report found that Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan reduced the number of lost bed days by 24% from 2006-07 to 2007-08, while the number of people who experienced bed blocking fell by 20% during this period.

In Gwent, Mr Colman said there had been a "considerable reduction" in the number of people experiencing delays, falling from 148 in June 2008 to 56 in December 2008.

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: "The number of patients delayed has more than halved since the high in 2003.

"The assembly government supports joint working between the NHS and social services through a range of targeted grants and help.

"A further £50m per year has been identified to meet the cost of continuing health care to develop new models of service to better meet people's needs, increase support in the community and promote re-ablement and maximise their independence.

"On receiving the Wales Audit Office report, the Health Minister, Edwina Hart, will consider the findings and recommendations carefully."

Problems ranging from cancelled operations, ambulances waiting outside accident and emergency units and the cost to the NHS had been highlighted due to patients unnecessarily taking up beds in recent years.

There has been pressure for better working between hospitals, GPs, social services and housing departments.

The Royal College of Nursing's director in Wales Tina Donnelly welcomed the reduction in bed blocking.

She added: "However, we would still maintain it is the right of patients to be discharged from hospital at the time that their doctor feels that it is right for them to do so, and it's totally unacceptable that patients who are vulnerable are not discharged for a period of recuperation because of restriction in the number of social care facilities being available."

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