Ipswich Hospital’s new approach to bed-blocking as transfer delay figures soar

Ipswich Hospital.

Ipswich Hospital.

Bosses at Ipswich Hospital have vowed to tackle the issue of bed-blocking by working closer with community health services to help patients leave the ward quicker.

The number of patients at Ipswich who are officially ‘delayed in hospital’ while waiting for transfer of care has increased dramatically over the past few months.

This relates to people who are well enough to leave the hospital but need on-going support, either in their own home, a nursing home, hospice or community hospital.

On November 7 there were 80 patients at Ipswich in this position, and at its height 16% of all beds in the hospital were filled with patients who were fit to be elsewhere. The national target is 3%.

A task force has been set up, bringing together staff from the hospital, commissioners, GPs, social care, home-first, mental health, therapy, nursing and care home providers to work together to find solutions.

The team is now in its third week and yesterday the number of patients with a delay in their transfer of care had reduced to 39.

Speaking at the Ipswich Hospital Trust board meeting yesterday, Neill Moloney, chief operating officer and deputy chief executive, said: “The population is growing, people are staying alive for longer, so that undoubtedly has had an impact on the overall demand for services, but also the availability of domiciliary care and care homes in the community has remained fairly static.

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“So there’s a mismatch between demand and capacity. We need to really think about how we can reduce the demand for care and some of that expectation on staff and the way we can support patients in their own homes.”

Lisa Nobes, director of nursing, said it was important that staff kept in touch with the patient consequences of delayed transfers of care.

Ipswich Hospital matron Becky May told the board the story of one of her patients, Bob, who would have been considered a bed-blocker.

Bob has Parkinson’s disease and was later diagnosed with dementia and Lewy body disease.

His wife of 35 years, Mary, gave up teaching to take care of him at home.

Bob’s condition deteriorated and he was admitted to Ipswich Hospital. The decision was made that he needed to be in a care home as Mary was struggling to cope.

Ms May said Mary was bereft and felt as if she had “let her husband down”.

It was essential to Mary that she found the right home, which was both dementia-friendly and close enough for her to visit often.

She found one that ticked all the boxes, but it had no vacancies.

It then took some time for her to find another one that she was happy with.

During this period, Mary received “constant” phone calls from hospital staff asking if she had found a home, with one nurse saying to her: “We have to think about the patients coming into the hospital and the care they need.”

Ms May said: “Mary felt like she was causing a problem and she felt like she might be considered ‘difficult’.”

The board agreed that staff should be supported with handling this process confidently and sympathetically.