NHS to use trusted suppliers list to get medically fit patients out of hospital beds

NHS officials have created a one-stop shop so hospitals in England can find companies which can help them get medically fit patients out of hospital beds.

NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS) provided a list of trusted suppliers which includes home care providers; nursing and residential care support companies; and staffing agencies.

The 12 companies listed can help with a number services including discharging patients, virtual ward support and mental health “step down care bed services”.

Some of the companies can also provide “third party brokerage services” which means they can help find suitable care for patients and save hospital workers from trying to find support for patients outside of the hospital.

Elaine Alsop, from NHS SBS, said: “Delays in discharge processes and limited capacity in social and community care, are making it challenging for NHS hospitals and mental health services to discharge patients appropriately.

“They remain inpatients, placing further strain on hospital resources, reducing the number of hospital beds available for new admissions, and at higher risk of hospital-acquired infections, loss of mobility, independence and re-admission.”

The move forms part of the NHS’ preparations for what is expected to be a tough winter.

Other plans include social care “traffic control centres” and cash incentives for hospital performance in emergency care.

The centres, likened to travel agents for social care, will act as a single place for staff across the health, care and voluntary sectors to co-ordinate the best and quickest discharge options for patients – either at home or into social or community care.

Hundreds of patients are taking up hospital beds across England every day despite being ready to leave, due to hold-ups in sorting transport, medicines and paperwork, or because they have nowhere to be discharged to.

Disagreements between a patient or their family and medical staff, plus the need to install specialist equipment in a person’s home, are among other reasons for delays.

But the biggest obstacle to the speedy discharge of patients, who are often elderly and frail, is lack of beds in other settings, such as care homes or community hospitals.

Many have said that last winter was one of the worst on record for the health service in England amid soaring demand for care.

And it is expected that the service could also face a surge in demand this winter with officials anticipating a large number of people needing help for respiratory illnesses including flu and Covid.

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