Health: ‘Extra NHS beds at Wharfedale could save lives’

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Remember the winter woes for the emergency services which brought the NHS to its knees late last year?

Unfortunately, so do I. Ambulance services missed their 999 targets and A&E departments were in meltdown as a series of hospitals declared major incidents.

The whole system was under unprecedented pressure, yet one lingering historic issue that certainly didn’t help matters was ‘bed blocking’ – a term used to describe when the discharge of patients well enough to go home is delayed.

News this week shed more light on what the NHS in Leeds is trying to do to combat the problem, which hopefully will help stave off any repeat.

There are many causes of bed blocking, such as patients waiting for places in care homes, but one major issue has been people’s delays awaiting further non-acute NHS care – provision for those with some health care need that helps them fully recover outside of traditional hospital beds.

Basically without extra support for vulnerable, often elderly patients between hospital and going home, many who no longer need urgent care are left marooned in beds that could otherwise be taken up by people in desperate need.

Community Intermediate Care (CIC) beds are hoped to be part of the solution in Leeds, and 40 more will soon be placed in Wharfedale Hospital. They offer support to patients well enough to leave traditional wards but who are in need of short term support.

After a review last year, the NHS in Leeds is aiming to increase the 161 CIC beds in the city to 200 by 2019. Freeing up primary care beds at LGI and St James’s for those who need them the most will do nothing short of save lives.

BED BLOCKING IS A MAJOR ISSUE

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust has spent around £10million on the delayed transfer of patients due to bed blocking over the last three years.

More than 20,000 delayed days – days in which a hospital bed has been filled by a patient who is well enough to leave – were recorded at Leeds hospitals in 2014.

Almost 1,800 Leeds hospital patients had their transfer out of hospital delayed in 2014 due in part to waits for non-acute NHS care such as intermediate beds.

In Leeds at present there are 161 Community Intermediate Care beds at nursing homes and the likes of South Leeds Independent Centre.

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