The County Councils Network has announced a new report looking into how to improve health and social care over the winter. This comes as the country braces for the winter months, which is expected to be a challenging one for NHS and local government care services,
Titled Finding a Way Home, the report identifies how the admission and discharging of older people from hospital can be improved, while also better supporting their care needs. Savings of more than £2.5 billion for local government and the NHS can be achieved.
Broader solutions are recommended by the report, including increased investment, the use of home-based care, community services and the reformation of the way that the NHS works, with these replacing the purchasing of short-term residential care beds for the discharge of over 65s from hospital. The method that is being replaced, according to the report, has the potential to reduce independence.
One of the main outcomes of the report is that additional funding for health and social care systems should be allocated for councils to expand their home-based reablement and rehabilitation services, as well as supporting the development of therapy workforces which will help adults to return home more following hospital stays. Other findings from the report are:
- Approximately 175,000 less older people could avoid hospital admissions if decision-making from frontline health professionals is improved. This would see more community support for patients and involves more trust and awareness being put in community services.
- One in ten of the 1.6 million hospital admissions that the NHS faces are from over 65s, and improved support could release thousands of beds for use and decrease costs by £600 million per year.
- More criteria-led discharges and improved capacity in intermediate care services can help to save six million bed bays and reduce the number of delayed discharges.
- Improvements recommended in the report could lead to more than 80,000 elderly people that are discharged from hospital living more independent lives. This could lead to a £1 billion reduction in local authority costs per year.
County Councils Network’s Health and Social Care Spokesperson, Cllr Martin Tett, said:
“We are facing into one of the most challenging winters ever for the health and social care system, with immense pressures that have built up over the last few years showing no signs of abating. Every bed in each hospital will be vital as acute and emergency admissions rise over the coming months, and we need to ensure we maximise the most effective use of social care services to speed up discharges and improve outcomes.
“Last year the government was proactive in responding to the severe challenges of winter. But despite the best will in the world, this did not dramatically improve discharge rates, and for those who were discharged, it was not always the best option [for] them. Our report today sets out a different way: one where patient outcomes are improved, and costs are reduced significantly for both the NHS and councils.
“By investing more in the right community and intermediate care, as well as enabling improved decision-making across the system, today’s report sets out a clear pathway to creating a more sustainable and effective system, helping to avoid tens of thousands of unnecessary admissions each year and speeding up discharge rates. For those that then leave hospital, it also outlines how they can get the best possible health outcomes.”
According to the County Councils Network, previous efforts to improve health and social care from the government have focussed on how social care slows down the system, with a particular focus on hospital discharges. The report, however, identifies that focusing on avoiding admissions and improving simple discharges would make a bigger impact.
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