Hospital patients are urged to move to care home beds

Health chiefs have appealed directly to patients who are well enough to leave hospital to move into care homes to address an urgent shortage of beds.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 9:55 am
Updated Thursday, 25th November 2021, 10:20 am

Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) leaders said that there is enough capacity in the care home sector to ease the current pressure on hospitals, but that some patients are reluctant to accept the places that have been offered.

Northern Ireland’s health service has been under sustained pressure in recent weeks, with a number of hospitals reporting long waits for patients to be admitted because of a shortage of available beds.

The pandemic, combined with winter pressures, led one HSCB official to say the system is struggling to keep up with demand.

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A nurse works on a patient in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) in St George's Hospital in Tooting, south-west London, where the number of intensive care beds for the critically sick has had to be increased from 60 to 120, the vast majority of which are for coronavirus patients.

During a media briefing, Brendan Whittle, director of Social Care and Children at the HSCB, said it was “wrong” for patients who are well enough to leave, to stay in a hospital bed when there are other patients waiting to be admitted.

He said: “On Monday this week at noon, there were 205 people in emergency departments waiting on a ward in a hospital and a decision had been taken to admit them.

“At the same time there were 222 people who were fit for discharge but were delayed from moving out of hospital and those delays related to domiciliary care waits or care home delays.

“At exactly the same time there were 589 beds available in our care homes which could be used as a step down option.

Patients and their families are at times reluctant, or are refusing to avail of the beds that are there.”

Mr Whittle added: “We have to support people to step down from our hospitals to our care homes to keep our hospitals flowing.

“We have to step people down to care homes to stop people having to wait too long in emergency departments, to wait for too long outside of emergency departments in ambulances.

“My appeal is simple. I am asking all those who are in this circumstances as a patient or as a family member supporting a loved one, to work with our staff to support and to help people step down to care homes and to make way for people who are currently in our EDs, or outside our EDs in ambulances.

“It is wrong for people to stay on a hospital ward when there are people in EDs or in ambulances who need that care and we have other suitable care for them.”

Paul Cavanagh, director of planning and commissioning with the HSCB, said it was an ongoing struggle for the health service to keep up with demand.

He said: “If we could discharge all of the patients today that we need to discharge to care homes, we would actually have the flow that we require that those patients waiting in our emergency departments would be able to be dealt with.”