Health experts say plans in place to tackle winter influx of patients

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COUNCILLORS have been assured that there will not be a shortage of beds for elderly people in the event of an outbreak of any winter viruses.

Last year there were several reports of elderly patients who were unable to be discharged from hospital after being admitted with flu-like symptoms because of a shortage of beds in the community.

In some cases, a lack of space in care homes across Hartlepool meant any patients who needed continued assistance after being discharged from hospital were taken to facilities out of Hartlepool.

But a meeting of Hartlepool Borough Council’s Adult Services committee, members were reassured that plans were in place to prevent a repeat performance should the problems occur this winter.

Jean Freund, an executive nurse with North Tees and Stockton-on-Tees Care Commisioning Group, and the CCG’s head of commissioning Karen Hawkins delivered a presentation to the committee addressing the issue of the availability of residential beds in care and nursing homes.

Coun Geoff Lilley said: “Last December there was a situation where people weren’t able to be discharged from hospital as there weren’t enough care beds.

“Will that happen again this year?”

Coun Steve Thomas added: “I think this is diabolical for elderly and vulnerable people.

“Patients from Hartlepool are remaining in hospital because beds are not available in the town.

“It all stems when wages get cut, services get cut, facilities get cut and in the end standards get cut.

“And it is the elderly and vulnerable people who 
suffer.”

Maureen Lockwood, who represents Hartlepool Healthwatch, said: “There have been a number of occasions that I’ve been made aware of about a lack of beds meaning that a patient has to remain in hospital.

“We have had a mild autumn and the winter hasn’t started yet, but winter is not a good time for the elderly.

“They often need to be admitted into care, and I worry that there aren’t enough beds.”

Mrs Hawkins replied: “Plans are in place for the winter months, money has been made available and we have more capacity in the system.

“The local authority is linked in with the plan, it is a multi-agency approach.

“The aim is to see if we can reduce the impact over the winter, and then into next year.

“We need to get better not just over winter, but all year round.”

The CCG representatives also moved to reassure the committee that plans were in place to improve community nursing, and that the discharge policy at the University Hospital of North Tees was currently being reviewed.