'Don't leave loved ones waiting for a lift home from hospital', urge Preston and Chorley NHS leaders

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Hospital bosses in Central Lancashire have appealed to the families of inpatients not to leave their loved ones waiting to be collected once they have been declared fit to be discharged.

The trust that runs the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital hopes that relatives can help them free up valuable space on the wards and ensure that beds needed by those just beginning their hospital stay are not still occupied by those who are ready to leave.

Some patients at the two facilities can end up remaining in hospital many hours after being told that they can return home, because nobody has to come to take them there.

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The Lancashire Post understands that it is not uncommon for people to be prepared for discharge mid-morning, but not actually leave until early evening.

Sometimes patients are left in hospital for hours after they could have gone homeSometimes patients are left in hospital for hours after they could have gone home
Sometimes patients are left in hospital for hours after they could have gone home

Far less common, but not unheard of, are patients who remain in hospital for an entire night longer than they need to be there, because nobody has picked them up.

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The push for prompt collection of patients has been given greater impetus by the onset of the annual winter pressures that the NHS has to contend with – and the as-yet-unclear impact of the unfolding wave of Omicron cases.

Official NHS statistics on so-called “delayed transfers of care” – people who remain in hospital after they are fit to be discharged – have not been gathered during the pandemic.

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However, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH) says that it can have up to 80 people on its wards at any one time who no longer need to be there. Some of them will be facing delays unrelated to their lift home from hospital, but Dr Gerry Skailes, LTH’s medical director, says that any help relatives and friends can offer by way of timely collection of patients will make a difference.

“As we now prepare for the impact of the Omicron variant, we really need support from our community to help make sure that the only people in our hospitals are those who really need to be there.

“We do appreciate that people are busy with work, childcare, or other commitments, and it may not be convenient to collect your loved one from hospital when we call – but the quicker we can get someone home, the quicker we can give the bed to another person who really needs it.

“You really can help another family have a better Christmas and make a huge contribution to your local NHS by working with us in this way and this will be hugely appreciated by our staff,” Dr. Skailes explained.

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Kevin McGee, chief executive at LTH, added: “Whilst we will always do our very best for those in our care, nobody wants to be in hospital for Christmas unless they absolutely have to be there.

“Too many people stay longer in hospital than they need to, yet there is a wealth of evidence that people recover better in their own homes where they are familiar and comfortable with their surroundings.

“Delays in discharging patients from hospital also have a massive impact on our ability to focus on those seriously ill patients who are in need of care that they cannot access anywhere else.

“We’ve had amazing support from our communities during this pandemic and on behalf of all our staff, I am once again asking for your help by picking up your friends or relatives as soon as we ask you to collect them.”

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With Christmas just over a week away, the trust is also reminding people of other ways in which they can try to reduce the pressure on the NHS – including by using the most appropriate service for their needs, only calling 999 or visiting A&E in a genuine life-threatening emergency, such as a heart attack, suspected stroke or thee experience of breathing difficulties, and by getting fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

The NHS 111 online or phone service is able to give advice, including to those who think that they might need to visit a minor injury unit to treat issues such as broken bones and burns, while pharmacists are the recommended starting point for for minor complaints including coughs, colds, ear ache and rashes.

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