Suffolk’s winter resilience praised amid reduced ‘bed blocking’ at Ipswich Hospital

Ipswich Hospital. Photo by Phil Morley

Ipswich Hospital. Photo by Phil Morley - Credit: Archant

Suffolk’s healthcare system has been applauded for its “winter resilience” after achieving major improvements in some of the problems that have affected its main hospital over recent months.

Members of the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body heard on Tuesday that delayed transfers of care at Ipswich Hospital, sometimes referred to as “bed-blocking”, had fallen by almost three quarters.

The problem peaked in November when as many as 80 patients a week were occupying hospital beds when they were healthy enough to be discharged. By December, chief contracts officer Jan Thomas said this had fallen to 23.

Many delayed transfers of care happen when health teams in the community, such as care homes, are unable to offer the support a patient requires immediately after discharge.

John Oates, the clinical lead on integrated care, speaking at The Mix in Stowmarket, said the “significant improvement” in these figures had helped increase capacity at the hospital by “providing the right care in the right place at the right time”.

Dr Oates said different organisations within the health and social care service had responded “exceptionally” and pulled together to face the pressures of winter.

Chief officer Ed Garratt said winter resilience had been a “key focus for all of us”. “The NHS has been under significant pressures and these pressures have also been felt in Suffolk,” he added.

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“We have not been able to deliver our constitutional standard, which is disappointing.

“However, Suffolk has been more resilient than some of our neighbouring counties, which we have been supporting.”

A particular success over the winter months has been the reduction in the number of older people being admitted to hospital.

Peter Holloway, the planned care lead on the clinical executive, said the 1% reduction in the number of patients in hospital aged 75 and older had been a result of work carried out by the crisis action team, which had made a “demonstrable difference”.

“We should celebrate that a lot more,” he added. Although fewer older patients were attending hospital, the number of children and young people was reported to have increased.