Hospital discharge delays ‘at lowest for a decade’

Hartlepool council says elderly patients should not spend longer than necessary in hospital.
Hartlepool council says elderly patients should not spend longer than necessary in hospital.

The number of extra days that elderly patients are spending in hospital after being told they can go home is getting better.

Social care officials reported a much improved performance to a Hartlepool Borough Council meeting, which they say is partly a result of closer working between the authority and hospital staff at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust.

Jill Harrison, the council’s assistant director for adult services said for one week in March there were only three Hartlepool patients experienced delays.

Last November, the Mail reported how there had been a 116% increase in the number of extra days people were spending in hospital when they did not have to, at just over 1,300 days between April and June.

An action plan on the issue was developed after Healthwatch Hartlepool looked into the issue a couple of years ago.

Ms Harrison told the Adult Services Committee the new delayed discharge figure was the lowest since the measure was introduced about 10 years ago.

She said: “There has been continued and increase in the national focus on hospital discharges and the context in terms of pressures within health and social care.

“A number of factors contributed to that improvement in performance. Really that’s been the local authority working more closely with the foundation trust in establishing an integrated hospital discharge team where staff are working much more closely together.

“The other positive is that we have had an increase in the availability of nursing care beds which has had a positive impact on people being able to move out of hospital in a safe and timely way.

“The fact that we’ve had that improvement in performance in relation to delays is really positive given that there are actually more older people going into hospital for unplanned admissions. We know that a longer stay in hospital than is necessary has a number of risks and issues for older people so it’s absolutely in people’s interests that once they are fit for discharge we work together to get them home safely as quickly as possible.”

Committee member Councillor Brenda Loynes said she had personal experience of patients still waiting several hours after being given the all clear to leave hospital.

Chair Coun Stephen Thompson said Healthwatch, which he works for, is going to revisit the issue later this year.

He said: “One of the things I am pleased to see is the closer working between the trust and the local authority which was one of the key recommendations from that piece of work that was done a couple of years ago.”