Schemes by housing services are reducing delays in discharging people from hospital and preventing unnecessary hospital admissions

The National Audit Office (NAO) estimates that the NHS spends around £820m a year treating older patients who no longer need to be in hospital. A new report looks in to how housing providers can, and are, helping to reduce this figure.

A delayed transfer of care occurs when a person is medically ready to leave hospital but are unable to be discharged. This is often because there is nowhere suitable for them to move on to or there is a delay in getting a care package or adaptations that would allow someone to move home. It can also be because there isn’t a space available in a residential or nursing home.

Delayed transfers of care can not only have a significant impact on people’s lives, they are costly for the NHS. Between 2013 and 2015 the number of delayed bed days rose by 31%, and in 2014-15 there were 1.6 million total delayed bed days in England. There were 456,447 delayed days in 2016-17 – a huge increase of 45.3% on the previous year which is attributed to “awaiting care package in own home”.

The report, which was commissioned by the National Housing Federation (NHF), states housing providers are working with health commissioners to offer a range of solutions that will help ease the situation for the NHS as well as work for patients. These include: preventing unnecessary hospital admissions, reducing the length of hospital stays and reducing or avoiding delayed transfers of care.

One Housing Group’s scheme for older people saves between £400 to £700 per person per week. Based on an average of around 6,000 excess bed days per month across England, this equates to savings to the NHS of between £10m and £18m a month.

The report outlines 12 examples of council and housing association care schemes, which are saving the NHS money. Features of these schemes include dedicated support and access to 24-hour care teams, the facilitating of earlier hospital discharge and avoidance of unnecessary or repetitive hospital admissions, and support to individuals who have come into hospital and are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Dr Mark Holland, President of the Society for Acute Medicine, says in the report: “If one were to scale up this work it would be massive across the UK. Savings of this magnitude would go a long way towards funding 7-day secondary care”.

The report concludes that there is “a strong case for increasing the scale and scope of the housing offer, and within the sector there are high levels of support for doing this.

This would have significant cost benefits for the NHS. The savings achieved as a result of the individual schemes featured in this report represent a tiny fraction of the total cost savings that could be achieved if provision of these services was extended across the country.”

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