19th February 2015

Call for hospices to relieve pressure on hospitals

THE head of a Worcester charity has backed calls for hospices to play a greater role in helping so-called bed blockers leave hospital while getting the care they need.

Chief executive of Worcester-based St Richard’s Hospice Mark Jackson has thrown his support behind a proposal which would see hospice workers working alongside hospital staff to get patients in need of palliative or ongoing treatment either into a care home or hospice or back to their own homes with a care package in place.

Mr Jackson said he was firmly in favour of the idea, which was proposed by Hospice UK director of policy Jonathan Ellis in a letter printed in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, February 7.

“We are here to help and want to help for the sake of patients,” he said.

“The hospitals are really pushing on an open door here.”

Hospitals in Worcestershire and across the country have been under extreme pressure since Christmas, with an ever-increasing amount of so-called bed blockers – patients ready to go home or be discharged to a hospice or care home. But Mr Jackson said the scheme would involve hospice staff stationed with hospital’s discharge teams to help get as many patients discharged as possible.

“Hospitals for very good reason are very risk adverse,” he said.

“They often don’t discharge into care homes unless they’re 100 per cent confident.

“While with St Richard’s Hospice there is a full care package there already.”

He added the hospice’s team would also be able to work with care homes to give them the proper training to deal with patients with palliative needs so hospitals felt more confident to use them.

“Care homes really need to get their act together so the hospitals will have the confidence,” he said.

“The only thing is it will have to be funded.

“It can’t be free, but if the NHS spends so much on it they will save so much more.”

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today on Tuesday, February 10 Hospice UK chairman and former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard said the project would cost the NHS £80 million a year, but would result in annual savings of £160 million.

“Very few people want to die in hospital,” he said. “Most people want to die either at home or being looked after in a hospice.”

Urgent care lead with NHS South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group Ruth Davoll said the organisation was open to the idea, although no formal discussions had yet taken place.

“The CCG is continually working with partners across Worcestershire, looking at new ways to reduce pressures within emergency departments,” she said.

“Although nothing has been discussed at this stage, the CCG would consider hospices taking on suitable patients to free up beds for those in need of them.”