Some time ago the phrase ‘bed blockers’ entered the language. It was a cruel description because it referred to patients, often elderly, who were well enough to be discharged from hospital, but who could not go home because the necessary support systems were not in place.
The pressure was then on our hospitals to address that situation, because other patients could not be admitted and receive treatment until a bed was free for them.
However, in the past ten years, another statistic has begun to show up because emergency readmissions to hospital have increased by more than 50 per cent. The newly-appointed Health Secretary said on 8 June that the rise does not seem to be because patients are frailer. Instead, hospitals had an incentive to reduce the length of time that a patient stayed in hospital. This created a risk for patients. Some ended up back in hospital for more treatment.
The pendulum swung and the way that the hospitals were organised meant that they received another payment if a patient was readmitted in this way.
We probably all know people who have gone home from hospital and some element of care has not materialised. I know I have talked to constituents at advice surgeries and elsewhere who feel that the safety net could have been better.
It is now proposed that hospitals should be responsible for patients for the 30 days after they have been discharged. In other words, patient care does not end at the hospital door.
There will be a financial responsibility because hospitals will not receive an additional payment if a patient returns to hospital within the 30 days.
The intention is to improve patient safety and to ensure that the hospital’s provision of care is linked to the care which patients receive from community services when they return home.