Tackling late hospital discharges with private help

Peter Jennings Peter Jennings

Keeping people in hospital when they are well enough to leave is a major problem both for the individual and for the NHS.

While good progress has been made over the past year in reducing these delayed transfers of care, the latest figures show that more than 150,000 people a month are staying in hospital longer than they should. With these patients costing more than £300 a day and blocking beds for new admissions, there is a pressing need to reduce these numbers further.

The causes of these delays are complex and relate to funding, ineffective discharge systems and processes and the attitudes of carers and relatives. Although the independent care sector has the capacity and capability to provide solutions to some of these problems, these options are not being utilised effectively. The challenge for both the NHS and care providers is to find ways to make them a reality.

Our Intermediate care, How can private care operators provide pain relief for the NHS? [ 3464 kb ] report draws on the views and insights of the participants in a round table discussion hosted by Grant Thornton and Trowers and Hamlins. This brought together private care providers who operate across reactive, residential and home care with the hospital and primary care sectors and stimulated a lively debate about the challenges and the potential for greater public and private sector collaboration.

In particular, the independent sector can play its part by being more proactive in highlighting the solutions it can offer. NHS professionals are often focused on the day job and do not have the time to find out what services and technology may be available beyond their standard services and providers. That places the onus on independent operators to find ways to engage with those professionals and making them aware of what they can offer.

The challenge for private providers is that solutions are needed at a local level and the sector will have to take the time to build links with local GPs, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and hospital trusts and establish what solutions will best suit their particular needs.

While all those dealing with discharges will have similar requirements to find suitable, safe care, approaches will vary across different hospitals and operators will have to take a flexible approach. They will need to show a willingness to respond to local pressures and deal with discharge teams in an open and creative way. This might involve proposing new models of care or offering a range of short, medium or long term options but all with a real focus on developing partnerships that provide an effective response to the hospitals’ need.

Independent providers can also highlight how technological innovation offers options which will enable a patient to leave hospital earlier. While technological solutions will not be suitable for everyone, there is clear evidence that monitoring systems can provide a way of providing intervention when, and if, it is needed rather than keeping individuals in hospital just in case of a problem. Providers can also engage with discharge teams to offer to develop particular specialisms that will meet local needs.

While there are challenges involved in dealing with the NHS, there is real potential for private providers to support the further progress we need in reducing delayed transfers of care.

Many operators are already involved in this work but to enable it to make a real difference will require genuine collaboration, integration and funding. This can help support a move away from the current ad hoc arrangements to the development of regional care markets that make full use of the capacity available in the independent sector to the benefit of patients and the NHS as a whole.

If you want to discuss any points raised in the report or if you are looking for strategic advice to support your businesses activity in the care sector, please contact Peter Jennings or our Healthcare team.