One in 10 beds at the N&N blocked

MARK NICHOLLS Almost 10pc of the beds at the 987-bed Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital are being blocked by patients waiting to be discharged into other units.

MARK NICHOLLS

Norfolk's biggest hospital is in the midst of a major bed blocking crisis, it has been revealed.

Almost 10pc of the beds at the 987-bed Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital are being blocked by patients waiting to be discharged into other units.

Hospital bosses say that occupancy of N&N beds has been particularly high at present, partly because of the bad weather, but more seriously because of delays in being able to discharge patients for the next stage of their treatment.

The knock-on effect is that it is now experiencing difficulties admitting new patients for treatment.

The N&N has revealed that at present more than 80 beds - equivalent to three wards - are being blocked with mainly elderly patients waiting to be discharged into the care of social services, one of the community hospitals run in the county by Norfolk Primary Care Trust or another unit for rehabilitation.

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Senior N&N managers are due to hold talks with the PCT and officials from Norfolk County Council social services this week to try and avert the deepening bed crisis at what is regarded as the busiest hospital in the region.

Andrew Stronach from the N&N said: “Our bed occupancy has been very high recently partly because of the bad weather but also because our delayed discharges have risen.

“We normally have around 30 patients who are fit for discharge but are waiting for either social care or a community place. This has risen recently to around the 80 mark. It does have a significant impact on the running of the hospital, including on our ability to admit new patients, and the increased pressure it places on staff.”

The N&N crisis comes less than a week after Norfolk PCT approved a major revamp of its intermediate care plans.

The changes, which were originally planning to see community beds cut from 201 to 158 and close some cottage hospitals, were scaled down but when it comes into effect next year will still see beds cut to 178 and St Michael's at Aylsham shut down.

One of the main fears for campaigners fighting the plans was whether there would be enough beds to cope or sufficient staff in the community to see patients cared for at home.

However, Norfolk PCT stress that the current bed-blocking crisis at the N&N is not a result of insufficient beds in its community hospitals.

Norfolk PCT said that on Friday, the number of patients awaiting discharge into its community care services from the N&N was 30.

“That is about normal for us at this time of year,” said the PCT's deputy director of provider services Tony Hadley.

About 12 of those were expected to have been found a place over the weekend, he said.

Norfolk County Council said that ahead of the weekend, the integrated discharge team at the N&N was dealing with 33 social service delays, which is slightly higher than average.

Director of Adult Social Services Harold Bodmer said: “The team's duty is to ensure that people are discharged from hospital in a timely manner and that they have the right support in place, cutting down on the number of readmissions.

“Delays can occur around discharging people from hospital particularly when they are being discharged into residential care. The team work with patients, families and carers to help identify a residential home for people to move into which is suitable for their long-term needs, this can sometimes take time.

“There is not a county-wide problem in finding home support for people who want to remain in their own homes. However, in some of the more rural areas it can be problematic finding home support, particularly for people being discharged from hospital who need several visits from a home support worker each day.

“We are in daily contact with the N&N about the delays and we are aware of the issues.”

The Integrated Discharge Team is made up of specialist nurses and social workers to provide an integrated approach to discharge planning. Set up last year, it has already handled over 6,000 discharges and the council says it is preventing 95 unnecessary admissions to hospital a month.

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