Hospitals prepare for surge in Omicron admissions

THE Government has ordered hospitals to limit the admission of elderly patients and discharge the “medically fit” before Christmas – using hotels if necessary as COVID cases surge.

In a letter to chief executives of hospital trusts across the country, NHS England ordered the release of the “maximum number of beds and a minimum of half of current delayed discharges” .

The letter adds: “A significant proportion of discharge delays are within the gift of hospitals to solve. Hospitals should work to eliminate avoidable delays on pathway zero – straight home without the need for social care support.

“Where necessary, this could include using personal health budgets, which has been successfully piloted in Cornwall and Lancashire, or use of hotel beds.”

The move echoes early 2020 when thousands of elderly so called bed-blockers were released from hospitals into care homes without COVID tests, resulting in high numbers of fatalities.

The NHS is also restricting access to hospitals for many of the elderly vulnerable and instead providing support at home or in community beds.

Trusts will be using Urgent Community Response Teams to deliver the scheme. GPs and the 111 and ambulances services can refer patients to these teams if it is judged a patient doesn’t need a hospital bed.

The service is run by the Essex Partnership University Trust (EPUT) which provides community health, mental health and learning disability services.

An NHS spokesperson said all options were being looked at but south Essex patients “are not discharging to hotels currently”.

Dr Ronan Fenton, medical director, Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership, which includes Southend, Basildon and Broomfield Hospitals, said: “Our teams from across health and social care are working closely to ensure patients receive the right support when it is time for them to leave hospital, whether that be in a community setting or in their own home.

“We are also focused on trying to prevent avoidable admissions to hospital by supporting people who need our help in different ways.

“One example is our an Urgent Community Response Team who are trained and able to manage urgent health issues within a person’s home or care home.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter