Bed-blocking showing signs of improvement

Bicester Advertiser: Dr Stephen Richards Dr Stephen Richards

THE health boss who promised to tackle bed-blocking “head-on” more than two years ago has said there are now signs the situation may be improving.

Dr Stephen Richards, chief executive of the GP-led Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, pledged to get to grips with the crisis in September 2011.

Since then, Oxfordshire has consistently been the worst place in England for bed-blocking, but figures for October show an improvement.

In October, 139 people were delayed, compared to 166 in September.

Bed-blocking, or delayed transfer of care (DTOC), happens when a patient is well enough to be discharged but cannot because beds are not available or care arrangements have not been made.

Oxfordshire is now the second worst place in England, behind Birmingham (157).

Dr Richards said: “There are some signs that DTOC performance may be starting to improve. For the past six weeks, the number of people delayed, measured on a weekly basis, has been about 10 per cent lower than the normal trend for the county.

“While this is certainly not yet a pattern, it does represent a significant improvement at a time when hospital admissions, and therefore overall discharges, have actually been rising.

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“It is too soon to tell whether this is going to be a permanent reduction or to ascertain what might have been the reason for it. It is, however, very good news for patients who are able to return to their own homes more quickly than might have been the case before.”

Oxfordshire received £10.2m from the Government in September to tackle winter pressures, including bed-blocking, and Oxfordshire County Council earmarked another £1.2m last month.

The county’s October bed-blocking figures are worse than the same month a year ago, when 108 people were delayed, but are better than October 2011, when 183 were blocked, and October 2010, when 176 were delayed.

But, at an Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUHT) board meeting last month, trust non- executive director Geoffrey Salt was less positive about the situation. He said: “There does not seem to be any prospect that it will not be the worst again this time next year.”

At the same meeting, director of clinical services Paul Brennan explained that Oxfordshire was in the “unusual” position of having acute hospitals and community hospitals run by different organisations – OUHT and Oxford Health, respectively.

He said in areas where one organisation runs both types of hospital, those waiting in acute hospitals to go to community hospitals do not count as delayed patients, whereas in Oxfordshire they do.

Mr Brennan added: “It would be fair to say we do a proper record, to an extent that I do not think is so everywhere across the NHS.”

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