Hartlepool council and hospital chiefs row over ‘bed blocking tragedy’

The University Hospital of Hartlepool
The University Hospital of Hartlepool

HOSPITAL chiefs are calling on council bosses to help ensure beds are freed up in busy periods, especially with another Bank Holiday looming.

Bosses at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust labelled an influx of beds tied up over the Easter bank holiday as a “tragedy”.

Paul Garvin.

Paul Garvin.

They say the cause was due to being unable to release patients into the care system when they were well enough to leave.

But council chiefs have “strongly refuted” the claims and defended the service they provide.

Trust chairman Paul Garvin told a meeting of the trust’s board of directors, held at the University Hospital of Hartlepool last week: “It’s not about beds or blocking or pressures.

“Here we have patients who are ready to be discharged, they have almost got their bags packed, on the way out.

“But they are not able to leave because social care wasn’t able to put the right package in place.

“Some of these people have been sitting on our wards from Thursday through until Tuesday this week without being able to go home or whatever.

“It’s just a tragedy, the more we can do to keep the pressure on, the better.”

But a Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman told the Mail: “We strongly refute any suggestion that ‘bed-blocking’ is occurring due to Hartlepool Council’s social care services not fulfilling their role.

“There has never been a delayed discharge where the cause has been identified as being due to social services in this council since the current monitoring system was introduced in 2010, and Hartlepool is the only council in the North-East where this is the case.

“We have a number of services which support people to be discharged from hospital in a timely manner and are proud of how successful these services are.

“We are currently participating in multi-agency discussions aimed at improving hospital discharge arrangements but we are firmly of the view that the social care element of the process is robust.”

Trust chief executive Alan Foster told the meeting the trust’s Easter Plan worked successfully, “although staff have been under pressure, as ever.”

He added: “We have been suffering from some bed pressures this week as a result of Easter, with an inevitable clog-up of beds over the Easter period.

“I have had some discussions with Hartlepool Borough Council, with the chief executive and Gill Alexander, director of child and adult services.

“Clearly we want them to respond better over bank holidays and they have given a commitment to do that and May Bank Holiday is coming up.

“We felt social work cover could have been dealt with more robustly. Ways of better care flow have been discussed at some length.

“We did get full support from the CCG (Care Commissioning Group), I spoke to Ali Wilson prior to the bank holiday.

“I think they will step up to the mark but we need to keep it under careful monitoring .

“Thanks to our staff for doing a great job over the Easter holiday.”

The Mail told in January last year how Mr Foster and other trust directors said they felt Hartlepool and Stockton councils’ social services could be doing more to avoid “bed-blocking” on bank holidays.

But both councils had then denied any delays and said extra resources had been put in place to ensure patients were discharged on time.