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Stuck in hospital? How live-in care can get you home sooner.

Date published: 17 November 2022 Author: Zoe Armbrust Categories:

As we approach another winter billed as ‘the worst ever for the NHS’, attention has focused largely on the more visible problems facing patients this year. Ambulances queuing outside hospitals, people lying for hours in the street in makeshift tents and a lack of staff to treat those who make it inside. Connected to all of this is a problem which has huge implications not just for your medical treatment but also for social care services.

What is delayed discharge?

Sometimes known as ‘bed blocking’, the delayed release of patients from hospital has reached critical mass in the past year. ‘Bed blockers’ are patients who have received treatment and been assessed as ready to leave but are unable to do so because there isn’t adequate care in place for them at home.

According to NHS figures, August 2022 was the worst on record: more than half of all patients were unable to leave hospital, remaining in beds which could be used to treat new patients. It’s a crisis that accounts for around 10,000 patients per day.

This leaves hospitals and paramedics forced to employ delaying tactics in admissions and, once inside, patients can find themselves part of a game of musical beds. If it’s decided you need further care, finding a place in the right ward can often be impossible.

So patients are squeezed into overstretched wards, or ‘boarded,’ a practice that can see people with serious illnesses placed in the wrong part of the hospital for their particular condition. This isn’t just inconvenient, it can increase risk of death by 2 to 4%. It’s a desperate situation that has seen some NHS trusts moving patients into hotel rooms with specialist short term care.

Why can’t I go home?

There are a number of reasons that there could be a delay in discharge. A fifth of patients need rehabilitation, while a further 15% are waiting for a space in residential care. But the single biggest cause is a lack of adequate social care in the community, affecting nearly one in four patients. And this comes down to a lack of professional carers, due to an exodus to better paid sectors such as hospitality and retail. At present, around 15% of jobs in the care industry are vacant.

All this comes at a time of unprecedented demand. The number of home care hours leaped to 2.2m in spring 2022, compared with less than 290,000 hours during a similar period in 2021. Natasha Curry, deputy director of policy at the health think tank the Nuffield Trust says that it’s a situation that’s likely to get worse: “Services are struggling to meet the needs of people already in receipt of social care, and they simply don’t have capacity to take on new clients who are being discharged from hospital.”

So what happens to these patients?

Patients are discharged on the understanding that there is adequate patient care in place at home. However there are often gaps in that care, or it can break down altogether due to problems with staffing. In this situation the burden of support often lands on the shoulders of unpaid carers, usually family members who may have their own health or mobility issues. Caring for someone with complex needs can cause huge pressure on individuals and families. If the system fails it can lead to readmission to hospital, creating a vicious circle of declining health.

In some cases, patients are being discharged into a setting that is not right for them. People are moving to nursing homes when, with the right support, they could easily be cared for at home. Others find themselves moved around hospitals and health care facilities, often some distance from home. The result in both these scenarios is that people are distanced from their social support networks and families, leading to further isolation and a decline in mental and physical health.

How live-in care can help

NHS England has now outlined plans for patients to be discharged in 24 hours, with a ‘war chest’ of £500 million made available by the Government to help deal with the issue in the short term. But it’s unlikely to be enough to solve the crisis, leaving families searching for their own solutions. One growing area of the care sector has been the increase in live-in home care providers such as Promedica24.

Traditionally, setting up a care plan or moving into a care home can be a protracted process. People will understandably want to find the best providers and locations for their loved ones and may find themselves on a waiting list to access that care. At Promedica24, we offer an efficient, streamlined process that can help get patients out of hospital more speedily, providing a comprehensive care package and taking pressure off the NHS. You can find out more about the process of leaving hospital and returning home with a dedicated live-in carer in this blog post.

We believe that wider uptake in professional live-in care, a relative newcomer to the world of UK social care providers, could have huge benefits to the wider health and care ecosystem – something that is covered in this blog.

It’s not only considerably cheaper than the £400 a day average bill being footed by hospitals overcome by delayed discharge, it’s proven to have positive effects on the individual’s health and wellbeing. Receiving one-to-one care in familiar surroundings, with access to friends and family can improve recovery times and help boost your mental health.

Ultimately this reduces the chances that you will be returning to hospital, helping ease the burden at a time when our health and care services need it most.

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