New unit at Leeds hospital to cut bed-blocking

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A 26-bedded unit is to be opened at a Leeds hospital to tackle bed-blocking, as NHS chiefs grapple with unprecedented demand.

The new facility at Wharfedale Hospital in Otley will be staffed by a private company thanks to a link-up with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT).

It will provide beds for elderly patients who are fit to be discharged from Leeds General Infirmary or St James’s Hospital but are waiting for assessments or care packages to be put in place.

Earlier this week, LTHT bosses revealed some routine operations had been postponed because of “unprecedented levels of demand”, with difficulties discharging patients because of pressures on social care highlighted.

Nurses on the ward will be provided by care home firm Villa Care Group while LTHT staff and GPs will provide extra support.

Funding has come through the West Yorkshire Acceleration Zone, a new initiative aiming to improve urgent and emergency care.

Prof Suzanne Hinchliffe, chief nurse and deputy chief executive at LTHT, said: “The Bilberry Unit will help free up beds at St James’s and LGI to meet an increase in demand during the winter period, and will mean that patients who no longer need acute hospital care can continue to be well cared for in an excellent facility while arrangements are being put in place elsewhere.”

Politicians and campaigners had previously claimed Wharfedale Hospital was “underused”, and Leeds North west MP Greg Mulholland welcomed the announcement.

He said: “For too long Wharfedale Hospital has been severely underused when it could and should be a fantastic facility for the local community, with many patients being forced to go into hospital in Leeds when they didn’t need to.”

The Bilberry Unit is set to open later this month and will operate for six months.