£1.2m contract awarded to tackle NHS bed blocking

Paul Cann of Age UK

Paul Cann of Age UK

First published in News Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Health reporter, also covering Kidlington. Call me on 01865 425271

A £1.2m contract has been awarded by social care bosses to try to tackle Oxfordshire’s bed blocking crisis.

Oxfordshire County Council is rolling out a pilot project that will provide care at home by a private firm. The year-long scheme will provide short-term care for OAPs while more long-term care packages are arranged by the council.

The council hopes the move will tackle bed blocking, where hospital patients are not discharged despite being well enough to leave.

The delays – often caused by a lack of hospital assessment of patients or delays in social care – lead to the “blocking” of vital beds.

Latest NHS figures based on a snapshot survey found 166 people were in a hospital bed when they were well enough to go home. Oxfordshire’s figures were the highest in England, although different counties have different sized hospital authorities.

The council hopes the contract given to DANA Care Ltd, which has offices in Witney and Oxford, will support from 28 to 36 people a week.

The NHS and social services have long battled to tackle the county’s bed blocking problem amid an ageing population with multiple health problems.

In September, we reported that the council admitted it had “failed” over a scheme in April that sent hospital patients home to wait for social services assessments.

That month the Government handed the NHS and council £10.2m to tackle winter pressures that worsen bed blocking, including more hospital and community beds and extra nurses and social workers.

DANA managing director John Maloney said the contract will see it take on 30 care workers.

The firm was chosen after a tendering process.

He said: “It will enable six or seven people a week to come out of hospital who would otherwise have had to stay in. This is specifically aimed at getting people out of hospital. Winter is coming up and they are going to need those beds.”

Council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “This service was previously piloted in Oxfordshire and it aims to help a person maximise their independence when at home before receiving more permanent support.”

Age UK Oxfordshire chief executive Paul Cann said: “Oxfordshire is badly in need of solutions to break through this continuing problem. “Together with a strengthening of community health services, these are the kind of services that older people need and will welcome.”

PROBLEM ACUTE IN SEPTEMBER

BED blocking occurs when a patient is well enough to leave hospital but is unable to do so because of the NHS or social services.

Latest figures for September show 48 people were awaiting a social care package and 35 were waiting for further NHS care.

The other major group was 38 waiting for a care or residential home place while 26 patients or the families chose to stay in hospital.

When a patient leaves hospital, a care package suited to their needs has to be arranged by Oxfordshire County Council so they can be cared for at home with tasks like washing.

Setting this up can cause delays and the authority hopes the contract will fill this gap by providing short-term workers while the long-term package is arranged.

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