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Helping people out of hospital & back home



I’m not big on pub quizzes, but one question that should be in all quizzes nationwide is ‘how much does it cost for someone to stay in a hospital bed for a week?’ Hint – it’s more than double your average 4-star hotel.*

With mounting pressures on the NHS as it experiences ever-higher demand there’s inevitable talk of ‘bed blocking’ or the more bizarre, but appropriately named, ‘delayed discharge’.  Today in your local hospital there will be between 10 to 60 people who are in a bed yet have no medical need to be there… they just can’t go back home.

That’s now, but as winter arrives the situation simply gets worse. We need solutions – fast.

The good news is that Housing Associations across the UK are ideally placed to help. With accommodation and expertise in supporting people, we can make sure patients get the care they need and that stretched NHS services are freed up.

Why do people get stuck in hospital? That’s the question I get asked at lot. The first response is, it’s not the people who are stuck… however the answer I give is that there are lots of reasons why people with no medical need stay in a hospital bed, and end up staying sometimes weeks beyond the time they were well enough to go home. 

A couple of weeks ago I spent the morning work-shadowing Mandy, Curo’s Step-down from Hospital Co-ordinator. Mandy’s job is to work with hospital clinicians and health professionals to make sure that the thousands of people treated by the NHS have somewhere suitable for them to go next.

Often people have had a life-changing diagnosis or operation. An amputation for example means someone simply can’t go straight back home to a property with a flight of stairs. I’ve also met people whose relationships ended while they were in hospital and those whose social needs are complex or not fully evident from a hospital bed. Discharging them would likely lead to an immediate return unless specialist support or housing were put in place.  

Curo, based in Bath, is just one Housing Association that works together with health and care professionals to make sure people can leave hospital as soon as they’re well enough to be discharged.  We offer hotel-like ‘step-down’ units apartments free of charge (thanks to the Better Care Fund) to people who can’t go back home immediately.

People from across the area can stay for up to 12 weeks with a tailored package of support and personal care if they need it. They can have a partner staying with them if they wish and they’re located close to key services so help’s at hand day or night. This gives people time to get the advice and support to make the best choices for themselves, with expertise from people like Mandy and carers.

One thing I’ve learnt from talking to Bill, Sarah, James, Margaret and Donald – step-down customers I met recently – was that it’s nigh on impossible to make a great decision about your future from a hospital bed. And I certainly wouldn’t advise it as the only suggestion that’s usually offered is residential care, even for people in their forties and fifties.

So back to the pub quiz – last year with Curo’s six units of step-down accommodation we saved you, the tax-payer, £561,762 in NHS bed costs. And we could do more: 20 units would save the public purse £1.6 million in wasted hospital bed time and your loved one would be less likely to wait on a trolley or for an op.

Here’s to more great solutions from housing, health and care together.

*£3000 a week is the average cost of a hospital bed

This article was first published by the National Housing Federation.

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