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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

NHS unveils plan to cut unnecessarily long hospital stays ahead of next winter

Written by Sally Wardle

The NHS has unveiled plans to cut unnecessarily long hospital stays, freeing up thousands of beds ahead of next winter.

Around 350,000 patients spend more than three weeks in hospital every year but many are well enough to be discharged, NHS England said.

Health bosses will aim to reduce this number by around a quarter, to make more beds available for the sickest patients and reduce the burden on services.

The plans will be outlined by NHS England and NHS Improvement on Wednesday, at the NHS Confederation conference in Manchester.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: "Over this past year hospitals and local councils have successfully worked together and have turned the corner on delays in patients being discharged.

"Now they need to go further in order to ensure patients are treated with dignity and looked after in the right setting for them."

Many elderly people deteriorate in hospital and a stay of more than 10 days can lead to 10 years' muscle ageing in those most at risk, NHS England said.

Under the plans, NHS Trusts will be expected to balance out the number of patients discharged across the week, increasing the number allowed to go home at the weekend.

Staff will be encouraged to make more use of alternatives to hospital admission, such as therapy services, and instances of patients staying longer than they should will be treated as a safety issue.

NHS England said trusts will be supported with extended access to GPs, while care home staff will also be given greater support to prevent readmission.

The NHS hopes the plans will reduce the number of long-staying patients by around 25%, freeing up more than 4,000 beds in time for the annual surge in demand next winter.

Ian Dalton, chief executive of NHS Improvement, said: "No-one wants patients to stay in hospital longer than they have to, or for the health of patients to deteriorate in the very place that is supposed to be making them better.

"But this is happening all too often and we have to work together to change it. Every day in hospital is a precious day away from normal life.

"By setting this national ambition and working with trusts and local systems to deliver it, we will help more patients to recover safely and as quickly as possible, while ensuring that hospital resources are used for those who need them most."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire.