NHS Providers urges care home discharges to free up hospitals

NHS Providers has called on the government to provide financial incentives and support for the care sector to enable patients to be discharged from hospitals into care settings.

The membership organisation for the NHS acute, ambulance, community and mental health services said trust leaders report there is spare capacity that could be accessed in parts of London, south-east England and east England where hospitals, community services and community support at home services are full.

Patients who no longer require complex medical care could be discharged into a range of settings, it added, including residential and nursing home settings if they are provided with an intermediate care package; and being discharged to, or returning to, a care or nursing home.

"We need more beds, and with the right NHS clinical support and government financial support, there is a potential opportunity to use care and nursing homes and extra social care at home for that additional bed capacity,” said NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson (pictured).

"There is, of course, no question of using this capacity for patients who could introduce Covid-19 infection risk into care homes or for patients requiring complex or specialist hospital care,” he added.

“This could also mean additional funding for domiciliary care, which social care colleagues tell us is key. The NHS needs to consistently provide clinical and therapy support where needed, for example by treating any beds with higher acuity discharged hospital patients as extended community beds.

"This will require rapid, effective, working at local level, supported nationally, but unless we act in the next few days, we will have missed what many trust leaders feel is a vital opportunity to maximise outcomes for the greatest number of people."

Care industry leaders were wary of a repeat of last spring when more than 25,000 people were discharged from hospitals with most not tested for Covid. There were around 400 Covid care home deaths a day during last year’s peak.

“There’s a horrible sense of déjà-vu – the government must ensure everyone receives a negative Covid test before being discharged, something Alzheimer’s Society called for from the start,” Fiona Carragher of the Alzheimer’s Society told the Daily Mail.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman told the newspaper that “no care home should be forced to admit an existing or new resident if they do not feel they can provide the appropriate care”.

“We are putting in place designated care home or NHS community settings that can provide Covid-positive residents with the care and support they need while protecting other vulnerable residents,” he added.

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