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Hospitals in several parts of England are discharging patients into ‘care hotels’ in an effort to free up desperately needed beds to help them cope with the NHS winter crisis.
NHS emergency care trusts in Devon, Cornwall and Bristol, and the surrounding area, have started moving patients who are medically fit to leave the hotel.
The move is a revival of a practice used by the NHS in England during the pandemic, when hospitals tried to free up as many beds as possible for Covid-19 patients. It is based on a care model widely used in the Nordic countries to reduce hospital overcrowding.
NHS Devon has booked 40 rooms at the Leonardo Hotel in Plymouth, 10 of which are used by the NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly integrated care board for patient discharge. The board itself is considering organizing a similar setup, informed i.
The Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Council has been using rooms at an unnamed hotel in the city since November to accommodate up to 30 patients.
Some hospitals have used care hotels intermittently since Covid hit in early 2020 to ease overcrowding and speed up the release of beds occupied by people with no medical reason to stay in hospital. These are mainly people with low medical needs who, according to doctors, occupy a hospital bed unnecessarily and can be safely cared for elsewhere.
After discharge from hospital, patients are looked after at the hotel by staff from a private care agency contracted by the NHS. They stay in a hotel – sometimes for weeks – until the local council and the NHS arrange a care package that allows them to return home or a care home.
A spokesman for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Council said: “Local health and care services are under significant pressure and this temporary care facility provided at a local hotel will help us improve patient flow through our hospitals, ensuring more people can be discharged as soon as their health allows them to leave the hospital.
“It will also improve the flow of patients through our hospitals while helping to address the issue of delays in handing over ambulances.
“The service will be operational until the end of March 2023 and will provide comprehensive care, in a friendly environment, to people who do not need to stay in hospital, but require further support before returning home.”
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Discharged patients are expected to spend an average of three weeks in the hotel. They are cared for by Abicare, a Care Quality Commission registered personal home care provider, and NHS rehabilitation and primary care staff.
Caroline Abrahams, director of charity Age UK, has criticized care hotels and said hospitals are using them to help them negotiate a surge in demand for urgent and urgent care. She said this underscores “how serious the welfare crisis has become” and that “hotels are not the right place to provide quality care to older people who need support to recover from hospital stays.”
Around 13,000 hospital beds in England – roughly one in eight of the total capacity – are occupied by ‘delayed discharge’ patients who are stuck there, sometimes for months.
Rishi Sunak, in his first major speech as prime minister on Wednesday, reiterated concerns expressed by hospital chiefs and senior doctors that having so many beds occupied by such patients was a key reason why ambulances could not quickly unload patients to emergency staff, and the emergency departments were overwhelmed.
NHS England pledged last autumn to create 7,000 extra beds by March to help hospitals cope with winter pressure. These were to come from the discharge of medically fit patients and the expansion of “virtual wards” where patients receive care at home.
The Royal Stoke Hospital “reluctantly” agreed to restart patient care in the corridor of its A&E ward, a year after the practice was banned as it posed a “significant” risk to patient safety, the Health Service Journal reports.
Hospital bosses have agreed that up to 15 patients can be cared for in wheelchairs in the A&E corridor if needed 24 hours a day, despite having no paging bells or lined oxygen in an attempt to reduce the number of ambulances forced to queue for outside.