Patients being treated in ambulances outside Sheffield hospitals due to bed shortage

Home care bed blocking hospitals care homes v.1

By Lucy Ashton
Friday, 26th November 2021, 6:00 am
Only go to A&E or call 999 in an emergency life threatening situation.
Only go to A&E or call 999 in an emergency life threatening situation.

Patients are being treated in ambulances outside Sheffield hospitals because of a crisis in home care which has caused bed blocking.

Rising hospital admissions are causing a “deteriorating and serious situation” because there’s not enough beds due to severely delayed discharges.

Patients who are ready to leave can’t be discharged because there’s a shortage of home care and the situation will only get worse over winter

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A Sheffield Council report says the only viable option is for people to go to residential care homes for a short period while awaiting home care.

Council officer Joanne Knight said: “The lack of available acute beds is such that people have been treated outside of hospital in waiting ambulances. 

“We know that people waiting in hospital to go home are more likely to deteriorate and decompensate, with the risk of infection increasing.

“However, discharging people without the relevant care and support is also a significant concern and safety risk.

“There is a serious lack of home care available and limited access to this from hospital.

“Although ‘home first’ remains our preferred approach, other urgent options are needed to relieve the pressure both in the short term and for any surge in demand likely to happen over winter.

“All alternative options for managing this situation have been exhausted.”

How many patients are stuck in Sheffield hospitals?

As of November, there were 208 people awaiting discharge. Of these, 61 per cent were waiting for home care.

Up 100 new beds will now be provided in care homes, funded by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.

They would be initially for three months with a potential to extend for a further three months. The cost will be between £800,000 and £1.2m for each three month period. 

The crisis is because the lack of available home care in the independent sector is significant, with an increase in demand over the last three years.

There’s a need for more home care workers at a time when there is continuing staff shortages in the sector.

The council has tried supporting independent home care providers with staffing, training and incentives but it hasn’t had the impact needed.

‘It will improve flow in and out of hospitals’ 

The report adds: “This, along with a lack of investment into social care, is starting to cause increased pressure on the system as a whole. 

“While action is being taken to try and increase the capacity and support the workforce, this is unlikely to have a major impact on the delays in the short term or over the winter period.

“This is a short term arrangement to support the current blockages with hospital bed availability and will ensure people do not have to wait in hospital where their risk of decompensation and infection is heightened.

“There will be an improved flow in and out of hospitals for people and sufficient capacity in the city’s hospitals for people who need hospital care.

“Individuals who are ready for discharge will be supported in a safe and supported environment until their care package at home is available.”