Harrogate hospital trust plans home care service to tackle bed blocking

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Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust has revealed plans to become the second in the country to launch its own home care service in a bid to free up hospital beds.

Chief executive Jonathan Coulter said the problem of patients staying in hospital longer than they should because of a lack of private care services was the "biggest issue" that the trust currently faces.

Up to 90 patients were medically fit but could not leave Harrogate District Hospital in August, compared to around 20 before the Covid pandemic.

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The trust now wants to follow in the footsteps of the NHS in Northumbria and start providing care for patients in their own homes.

Harrogate District HospitalHarrogate District Hospital
Harrogate District Hospital

Russell Nightingale, chief operating officer at the Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust, told a board meeting on Wednesday that the move was a "huge change and big decision" for the trust, but one it had to take because the problem of bed blocking was "only going to get worse".

He said: "If you are in a hospital bed and fit to leave but can't, it is probably one of the worst places to be.

"In some instances, we have seen a degradation of people's health in hospital beds when they do not need to be there, despite the great clinical service they receive.

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"People want to be in their own homes as this is where they live and are comfortable."

Mr Nightingale also said he was concerned the current situation would only get worse despite a recent government pledge of £500 million to help people get out of hospitals, which he described as a "drop in the ocean".

Bed blocking has repeatedly been raised as a concern by hospital bosses who have warned of knock-on impacts on A&E waiting times.

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This comes as Harrogate District Hospital has had an exceptionally busy summer and pressure on services is only likely to grow over winter as it tries to tackle long waiting lists and staffing shortages.

The trust's home care service will initially run as a six-month trial and cost around £146,000 to provide care for 36 patients.

If the trial is a success, it is estimated around 15 patients who otherwise would be stuck in hospital could be moved back into their own homes each day.

The trust - which already provides home care for some children - has been in dialogue with the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust which this year became the first to launch such a scheme.

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Some concerns have been raised over the high turnover of staff, as well the impact on the private care sector.

However, Wednesday's meeting heard that care packages under the Harrogate plans would initially be offered to private care firms for 24 hours before the trust steps in.

More details of the scheme are set to be revealed in the coming weeks.

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