Exclusive: Sheffield patients stay too long in hospital

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PATIENTS will spend less time in Sheffield hospitals and more time being treated at home, under sweeping plans to transform the way health services are run, writes Ben Spencer.

The chief executive of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals admitted too many people are coming into the city’s five adult hospitals - and once they are there they are staying too long.

Sir Andrew Cash outlined a five-year plan to transform services in one of the most challenging period in NHS history.

The NHS trust has to cut its budget by £32 million this year - on top of £38m slashed last year.

Sir Andrew, who oversees 15,000 staff and one million patients a year, said: “We over-hospitalise patients compared to other cities.

“Hospitals have become a place of refuge for some vulnerable people.

“If someone stays in hospital too long they become, frankly, institutionalised.

“They get worse and worse and the hospital moves away from what it was designed to be - an acute hospital.”

The trust and other health organisations have invested £1m in community health services, increasing numbers of staff such as district nurses by 10 per cent.

The services focus on the 20,000 people in Sheffield living with acute long-term illnesses, such as diabetes and stroke, and the frail and elderly.

“We want to transform the way we deliver this service and keep people in their own homes, supported by staff visiting them,” said Sir Andrew.

Technology such as remote monitoring will be used to maintain safety and the hospitals are increasing the use of treatments such as dialysis in the home.

Once people are in hospital measures are being put into place to change how long they stay.

The hospitals are scrapping the practice of admitting people the night before an operation - patients now come in on the morning of the procedure, freeing up beds.

Managers are also being encouraged to find new ways to reduce the number of visits patients have to make.

“The idea of the traditional outpatient clinic is going to change,” Sir Andrew said.

“Quite often people would come in four or five times. Now we are trying to create the one-stop shop where you come, you have your tests, you get treatment, all on the same visit.”

Sir Andrew added: “It is a challenging time. This is the first time in 20 years we have not had any money for growth.

“We now have this four years in a row, for the life of this Government.”

Sir Andrew admitted jobs will be lost - but said they would go in a ‘planned way’, through voluntary redundancies and non-replacement of vacant posts.

In the first nine months of last year 191 jobs went at the trust, which runs the Northern General, Royal Hallamshire, Weston Park, Charles Clifford and Jessop Wing hospitals, saving £2.4m.

But Sir Andrew said: “We have to make transformational change - not just make salami-slice cuts.

“We need to provide services in a more efficient way, and at the same time improve quality. That means major changes to the way we deliver services.”