Joint attack on bed-blocking crisis

MARK NICHOLLS Plans to tackle a hospital bed-blocking crisis in Norfolk moved a step forward yesterday as three county MPs joined forces to organise a "select committee style" session to tackle the issue.

MARK NICHOLLS

Plans to tackle a hospital bed-blocking crisis in Norfolk moved a step forward yesterday as three county MPs joined forces to organise a "select committee style" session to tackle the issue.

Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb (North Norfolk), Labour's Ian Gibson (Norwich North) and Conservative Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) are to quiz hospital, primary care trust and social services chiefs in a bid to find a solution to the problem.

The crisis is draining millions of pounds from the county's health economy as it emerged that some patients are waiting weeks to be discharged from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital where at times almost 10pc of the 987 beds are being blocked by patients waiting to be transferred to other units for the next phase of treatment.

The aim is to hold the three-hour meeting within the next few weeks to try and unravel a problem that is preventing patients moving on to the next stage of their recovery thereby choking the county's main hospital with new patients unable to move into beds. The call comes after figures uncovered by the Lib Dems that reveal nationally more than one million days were lost last year to "bed blocking" in the NHS, a

30pc increase on the previous year

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A letter from shadow health secretary Norman Lamb has been sent to the N&N, Norfolk PCT, Norfolk social services, Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust and Age Concern Norfolk.

In it, putting forward proposals to look at the problem of delayed discharges, Mr Lamb said: "We want to be entirely constructive but we want to try to get to the bottom of the apparently intractable prob-lem of delayed discharges."

Recent figures show about 70 N&N beds - the equivalent of more than two wards - are being choked by patients waiting to go into a community hospital, dis-charged into the care of social services or home, but cannot do so until beds are available or an appropriate package of care is ready for them.

And in a knock-on effect, the PCT says some of its community care beds are being blocked because patients are waiting for some form of social care.

The N&N, PCT and social services say they are working closely to try to resolve the crisis, where on average it costs £100 to keep a patient in hospital overnight.

The NHS Confederation said it was hard to pin down a single reason for the sharp rises and a Local Government Association spokesman said: "These figures clearly demonstrate that health and social care are two sides of the same coin; where you underfund one, you overstretch the other."

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