Hospital patients can be discharged into hotels, independent hospital at home services and designated care homes in a bid to help free up beds, according to NHS England.
In a letter to clinical commissioning group (CCG) and adult social care leaders (20 January), NHS England said systems can ‘immediately’ begin implementing patient discharges to these locations using the £588m hospital discharge ‘scheme two’ fund, until 31 March.
Doing so will allow for shorter hospital stays, and ensure patients are discharged ‘when they no longer meet the ‘criteria to reside’ in a hospital bed’, NHS England said.
The £588m fund was announced in August last year (2020) to provide up to six weeks of funded care for people being discharged from hospital.
NHS England said the use of hotels would be a ‘short-term measure’ – meaning patients stay there for days rather than weeks – ‘where there are delays in arranging care at home support’.
This would also benefit those who are homeless, and those who are awaiting community equipment or minor adaptations to their housing, it added.
‘The care support provided to individuals in a hotel can be provided through any combination of unpaid and paid carers (operating in line with current Government lockdown guidance), Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered domiciliary care providers, virtual ward approaches, or utilising capacity of providers on the NHS SBS Patient Discharge Service Framework,’ the letter said.
NHS England also advised areas to utilise the national framework for independent sector providers for hospital at home and reablement services to ‘immediately increase capacity’.
Patients can also be discharged into designated care homes, it added, and repeated the recent announcement that where areas lack these facilities – due to being unable to obtain sufficient insurance – the Government will provide ‘time limited indemnity cover’ to stand them up.
‘In all circumstances, the current safe discharge policies set by the Government must be followed before any individual is discharged to a care home,’ it added.
Danielle Henry, head of primary and community health policy at the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN), said: ‘We welcome the NHS’ new framework to help support local areas bolster their community health services and ensure patients can be more swiftly discharged from hospital and get the care they need closer to home.
‘Independent community providers deliver a wide range of high quality, innovative services and, as part of this new framework, are pleased to be working with their NHS partners to ensure patients leaving hospital can access the recovery, rehabilitation and reablement support they need.’
Responding to the support for care home facilities, Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum, said: ‘It’s welcome news that the Government has announced the state-backed scheme to indemnify care providers operating designated settings.
‘Providing full indemnity is absolutely the right thing to do. The issue of access to appropriate insurance has dogged much of social care since the outset of the pandemic, and this important step forward in announcing a state backed scheme for designated settings will enable providers operating these schemes to play their part in supporting the NHS and the wider community with assurance.’
She added: ‘This announcement, though a positive step, does not go far enough. It is a temporary solution only committed to until the end of March, with a review due in mid-February. We continue our call on the Government to address the wider insurance issues for the sector and to extend the indemnity arrangements to the entire social care sector on parity with our colleagues in the NHS.’
Earlier this week (19 January), the Government announced an extra £120m to help tackle staff shortages in the social care sector.
The NHS England letter said this funding would ‘also support local systems to ensure enough social care workforce is available to support timely discharges from hospital’.