The figure emerged at a recent board of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (LTH), which heard that “escalation beds” are in use to cope with the pressure caused by delays in discharging patients who are medically fit to leave, but are awaiting care packages to enable them to do so.
That process might involve arranging support for an individual in their own home in order to ensure that they are safe and have their needs met - or finding a place for them in a care facility, either temporarily or permanently.
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LTH chief executive Kevin McGee told the Post that there was “three-and-a-half to four wards [of] significant capacity” being lost to what has long been a perennial problem for NHS and social care services across the country - when patients do "not meet the criteria to reside" in hospital.
“This is a national issue in terms of being able to attract staff into social care and into the domiciliary care market, [because of] the wages they’re paid.
“So there is a real workforce shortage in the social care sector and, as a consequence, it’s difficult to get the traction in terms of patients going home - [and that means] the length of stay goes up for those patients and the system just becomes slowed up.
“Basically, [these patients] have come to the end of their acute treatment and there’s no more acute care that can be given and they should [be able to] go home,” said Mr. McGee, who stressed that he was not criticising Lancashire County Council, which is responsible for providing adult social care in all parts of the county except Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen.
He said that the trust was considering how it might be able to use community health services to support domiciliary care packages and ensure that a full suite of help was “wrapped around” those who had just left hospital - although he confirmed that it would not be in the form of cash support.
The Post understands a pre-pandemic county council-run scheme known as “Home First” - which assesses a person’s care needs once they have been sent home rather than while they are still in hospital - is back up and running.
But Mr. McGee said that work was also needed to prevent people from being admitted to the wards at the outset.
“It’s a whole-system effort that starts with stopping people coming in [to hospital] in the first place and, once they do come in, then work[ing] with partners to try and get them home as soon as possible.”
He acknowledged that there were many pieces to the jigsaw of improving flow within his two hospitals which needed to be in place before any benefits would be felt.
“I wish there was one solution to all of this, but there isn’t. It’s that theory of marginal gains - you can’t improve anything 100 percent, but you can improve a hundred things one percent and, therefore, make a significant difference.
“That's the sort of principle that we’re working upon,” he added.
Lancashire County Council was approached for comment on the issues raised in this report.
A cabinet meeting of the authority earlier this month heard that demand for adult social care had not yet returned to the degree that had been anticipated in the wake of Covid - but that the future remained uncertain.