Last week it was revealed that Cambridgeshire is one of the worst place in the country for bed blocking – and now the county is anticipating a review of its health system.
Bed blocking – also known as "delayed transfer of care" – is what happens when a patient who doctors have said is fit to leave is still occupying a hospital bed.
It's a problem not only for the patients directly affected, but for the hospital as a whole, pushing up waiting times and meaning there are fewer beds available for people who might need them.
In March this year, there was so much demand on Addenbrooke's A&E department that it was forced to close temporarily .
Review of the system expected
Cambridgeshire is likely to be included in an upcoming round of Care Quality Commission (CQC) reviews into health services, to be announced in May.
At a county council health and wellbeing board meeting today (April 24), councillors agreed to prepare for a possible review.
Cllr Susan Van de Ven asked if a review would help highlight local issues such as problems with recruitment and the high cost of accommodation for staff.
She said these were putting people off NHS work and making the bed blocking situation worse.
Cllr Sue Ellington wanted assurance that the board would not spend too many valuable resources responding to a review instead of working to improve the situation.
Cllr Peter Topping said a review from the CQC could help to improve services, but he said the board should not lose sight of how bed blocking affected the individuals, particularly the elderly, who relied on the service.
“The report doesnt really make any reference to the impact on people,” said Cllr Topping. “Do we understand the impact of delayed transfers of care on people, particularly on the elderly, as well as the requirement of just hitting the numbers?”
The committee heard that delayed transfers of care had a profound effect, and that people deteriorate "mentally and physically" the longer they stay in hospital.
Cambridgeshire's poor record on bed blocking
A report published last week said the county was among the worst performing authorities nationally . Today the health and wellbeing board heard that improving the situation was a priority.
Updated figures show Cambridgeshire has improved since the report was published last week, but is still in the second worst quartile in the country.
Figures published by the council this week show the authority has moved up to 94th place out of 152 local authorities for its response to delayed transfers of care. This compares to the ranking of 131st out of 152 which they were given in February. Despite the improvements, there were calls for more to be done to improve the situation.
The board heard that “bed blocking” was a symptom of deeper problems in the health system such as issues recruiting and retaining staff (particularly from the EU), and problems finding home care for patients to be transferred into after they are ready to be discharged from hospital.
Charlotte Black, service director for adults and safeguarding at Cambridgeshire County Council said: “This is a system issue. We are responsible for these people. A huge amount of work is going in to addressing this, and it is a high priority on everyones agenda.”
She added that there should be a focus on helping people to lead healthier lives and to avoid having to be admitted to hospital in the first place.
She added: “I think there is a risk we think too much about how we get people out of hospital quickly whereas we should be thinking about how to stop people going into hospital in the first place. Admission avoidance is the wrong term to use, but it is about looking at what we can do to help people avoid having to go into hospital.”
Cllr Susan Van de Ven, who sits on the health and wellbeing board, said: “It is obvious people are working hard everywhere to firefight this.”