Digital tool launched to prevent lengthy hospital stays

NHS and local authorities launch Capacity Tracker to enable health and social care staff to check care home availability in local area

Published on 23rd April 2019

A new digital tool has been launched to reduce the number of people experiencing lengthy stays in hospital.

The NHS and local authorities have introduced a new digital portal which enables health and social care staff to see how many vacancies there are in care homes in the local area.

The tool aims to reduce the smount of time staff spend phoning around different care homes trying to find an appropriate place for people leaving hosipital thus enabling them to either return home or into a care home to receive care.

The technology, part of the NHS England's Long Term Plan, will enable people who need a care home placement to get out of hospital sooner.

Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England said: “One of the central ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan is to better support people to age well, and that means joining up different services locally to better meet people’s needs.

“By using this technology to work together more closely, hospitals, local authorities and care homes can ensure that people get the right care in the right place at the right time, and aren’t left waiting in hospital unnecessarily," she added.

In 2018, around a quarter of a million hospital bed days in England were taken up by people who were medically fit enough to be discharged, but who faced delays in an appropriate care home being found that could meet their recovery needs.

The NHS and councils have reduced the number of lost bed days by 20% between 2017 and 2018. But the new Capacity Tracker being more widely available is one of a number of measures being taken to reduce unnecessary delays leaving hospital even further.

The Capacity Tracker can be used on any device and care homes can upload details of their vacancies in just 30 seconds, helping health and social care staff to find the right services for individual patients, including those with dementia or a learning disability.

The scheme was piloted in the North, Devon and Berkshire last year and now more than 6,250 care homes have already signed up to the system.

The roll-out of the tool will contribute to ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan to upgrade support to reduce avoidable long stays in hospital, including better sharing of information between care homes and hospital staff.

As well as offering improved care for patients and care home residents, the new initiative links health and social care professionals more closely and reduces wasted time and resources.

Glen Garrod, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said: “We know that for the vast majority of people, they are most comfortable staying in their own homes in their local communities for as long as possible, so every effort should be made to keep people well and where it’s possible and safe, to prevent the need to be admitted to hospital, or indeed a residential setting, in the first place.

“However, if people do need to go to hospital then health and social care must work together to support people through their period in hospital, and on discharge to help them return home where ever that is possible. We must think ‘home first’. If after a thorough discussion with the person and their family, it is decided that going home is not an option and a residential care home is required then it is important we work together, with individuals and their families, to support them to make an informed choice based upon the information and advice provided," he concluded.


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