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Find a care home placement as easily as booking a hotel

Find a care home placement as easily as booking a hotel

Bed blocking is a crisis that costs the NHS £900 million per year. But technology might have part of the answer - providing a better service to those who need care at a lower cost

Hertfordshire County Council faces the same challenges from delayed hospital discharges as all social care authorities and CCGs. We decided to work collaboratively with the NHS and care providers to find a solution to increased hospital stays.  

The project team looked at where the inefficiencies are in the system and identified that finding a suitable care home was a key problem. Some of the delays occurred because there wasn’t an up-to-date, central source of vacancies. This meant we relied on calling or emailing individual homes to enquire about their bed availability for each different patient. 

For example, our hospital discharge and social care team received a request to find a vacancy for a man, aged 80, with dementia. His family also requested that the placement was within ten miles of their own home so that they could continue to visit. The team had to call each home to check that they were able to meet the man’s care and support needs, and ask whether they currently had any beds. This process took considerable time and resources, and there was a risk that available vacancies could be missed.  

We felt that technology could hold the answer; a style solution for care homes. We needed a partner who had experience of developing technology solutions for health and social care organisations. We worked with Hertfordshire Care Providers Association (HCPA), who commissioned OLM Systems after a tendering process.  

Working with OLM and HCPA, we developed a technology that streamlined the process and eliminated much of the duplication and wasted time. All care homes in Hertfordshire can upload their current vacancies onto the BedFinder system, while social care and NHS staff can log on and search for a placement that meets the needs of the individual patient. There are filter options so searches can be made by distance or specialty.  

Once a suitable home has been selected, staff simply make a booking request. This is sent to the care home, which can confirm or reject it instantly. The system has been built to prevent double bookings, further reducing the time taken.  

It is a change that can easily be replicated across the country. Staff in social care tell us BedFinder is reducing the time it takes to look for a vacancy by up to 70%. (We are carrying out a more detailed analysis.)  More than 300 care providers are on the system, with over 2,800 bookings made so far. Feedback has been very positive.  

Most importantly, it gives those for whom we care their independence back. This increase in efficiency allows us to get elderly patients where they need to be quicker. We put their health and well-being first.  

BedFinder can also be used by people in need of care services and their families. Since our 'soft launch' in April, they can search and see available beds quickly and easily on the public-facing area of the site. They are able to access information about the care home, search for suitable beds and read recent Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection reports. Service users and/or their carers can then make informed choices about their long-term or respite care. We are planning a full launch in the summer.  

This is a valuable service for families and people in need of care, who often worry about finding the right home. Carers save the national economy £132 billion per year, so providing them with the right support is crucial to the health and social care economy. Bedfinder is likely to become an essential addition to Hertfordshire County Council's operations in adult social care.  

For more information on BedFinder visit:


Kulbir Lalli is head of integrated accommodation commissioning at Hertfordshire County Council


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