NHS hospitals are discharging patients to hotels to ease the demand for hospital beds.
At least three NHS trusts in the south west of England are using “care hotels” to transfer patients who no longer need urgent treatment but require social care. to free up beds for incoming patients.
Discharged patients who face an average wait in hotels of around a month before being able to receive the care they require in their own homes, or find accommodation in a residence.
Age UK saying Yo that the strategy “underscores how severe the crisis in social care has become.”
in is believed hospitals across England have between 100 and 200 patients taking up bed spacedespite being ready for discharge with no social care package being available.
In Devon, the NHS has booked rooms to accommodate up to 40 patients at the Leonardo Hotel in Plymouth.
NHS Devon had originally booked 30 beds at the hotel, but following an agreement with its counterpart in Cornwall, it extended the block booking by 10 to receive patients from across the county border.
An NHS Devon spokeswoman said: “Care hotels are just one of many positive measures health and care partners have put in place to reduce pressure on busy health services this winter.
“They do not contain inpatients and are used to provide social care to people who are medically fit and do not require hospital care, but need additional life support after a hospital stay or to avoid needing to be admitted.”
As well as sharing Plymouth hospital with NHS Devon, the NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Integrated Care Board (CIOS ICB) is in talks to set up a facility of its own.
Cornwall’s only major hospital, in Truro, has waiting times for patients of up to 12 hours. The county health and care system is operating at critical incident level, after “acute pressure” has “increased our operational level,” health chiefs said.
Care hotels in Cornwall and Devon, which will be run by private care providers, are expected to be in use until the end of March.
NHS hospitals in and around Bristol have also booked hotel accommodation for up to 30 patients until the end of March.
A spokesperson for the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board said: “Local health and care services are under significant pressure and this temporary care center delivered to a local hotel will help us improve patient flow. across our hospitals by ensuring more people can be discharged as soon as they are medically fit to leave the hospital.
“No one should have to stay in hospital longer than necessary and this facility will ensure that more people can be discharged promptly. It will also improve the flow of patients through our hospitals while helping to address ambulance delivery delays.”
The Bristol hotel is being managed by the private home care company Abicare.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, regional NHS organizations have commissioned Abicare to run 20 care hotels.
While other NHS trusts across the UK are considering similar moves, it is understood that the higher proportion of elderly residents in the South West has led to particularly acute shortages in social care provision.
According to Age UK, “an extra bed on the NHS” costs around £2500 per week. The cost of a care hotel is just under £1,000 per resident each week, while a residential care home is around £520 per week.
Last summer Care England criticized an Abicare care hotel in Norfolk, which cost taxpayers £15,555 per care recipient during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group undertook a three-month pilot scheme in early 2022 to take pressure off local NHS hospitals.
It sent 36 patients to a care hotel for an average of 16 weeks each in what Care England said represented “unbelievable mismanagement” of £500,000 of public funds and was “totally unacceptable”.
Abicare responded by stating that the cost represented “significant cost savings” for the NHS.
Anne-Marie Perry, CEO of Abicare, said: “Keeping the 36 patients who filled one of our care hotels at one point in the hospital for the same period of time would have cost the NHS £1.6 million or £44,800 per patient. The £15,555 cost per care recipient was not only a significant cost saving, but also freed up 36 hospital beds and freed up hospital staff to care for other patients.”
Minutes of an NHS Devon board meeting show it has set aside a total of £9.85m to pay for “improving hospital discharge capacity” until the end of March, with system-wide schemes including hotels of care, additional community-based rehabilitation care and support and measures to help people with complex dementia to leave hospital safely.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s director of charities, said: “The fact that this policy is even under discussion underscores just how dire the crisis in social care has become.
“Hotels are not an appropriate place to provide high-quality care for older people who need support to recover after a period in hospital.
“If the only other option is to keep someone in hospital, it may indeed be the lesser of two evils, but it is a sad indictment of successive failure to invest in a stable and functional social care system capable of providing adequate help. in the right moment. time.
“If we want to solve the hospital discharge problem once and for all, we need reform, not more plaster solutions.”
Outlining his five promises on which he said his tenure as prime minister should be judged, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak acknowledged the pressure on the NHS after his spokesman came under fire for suggesting the health system was not in crisis at a briefing on Tuesday.
Sunak said: “I know there are challenges at A&E. People are understandably anxious when they see ambulances lining up outside hospitals.”
The prime minister also promised more hospital bed capacity, as well as social care funds to help discharge patients who are ready to go.
The NHS has used care hotels before and officials said NHS providers are looking at a number of alternatives to allow patients to be safely discharged to settings that meet their individual needs.