Mental health bed occupancy rates are at worrying highs across the country, while waiting times for mental health patients being discharged are rising too.
Over the Christmas 2021 period, more than 2,000 mental health patients were delayed going home from hospital, even though they were well and ready to go. This has a negative effect on both the patients and the hospital due to the reduced bed capacity for incoming patients.
So why the delay?
As expected, there is a combination of compounding factors. Despite the urgent need to discharge patients and free up beds, the priorities for the nurses on shift are to take care of the needs of the inpatients who are not fit for discharge.
There are often not enough nurses on duty to cover the workload due to sickness, Covid and isolation requirements. The nurses on shift struggle to organise discharges because they don’t have the time, the necessary skills, or the all-important links with Community Services that play such an integral role in a patient’s discharge.
No dedicated staff exist with the time, skills and community service links to support the nursing staff and help with discharges. Other factors which effect getting people home include key decision-makers not being able to take decisions in a timely way, along with a failure to plan effectively throughout the year, despite knowing there would be a crisis over the winter period.
Patients were needlessly waiting in hospital over the Christmas period – well and ready to go home – but without the logistical support to get there. How frustrating for everyone concerned!
A long delay waiting in hospital to be discharged can be damaging to someone’s recovery. It creates anxiety and feelings of disempowerment while they wait for crucial decisions about their future to be made for them. The longer they spend in hospital, the harder it is to get their life together when they leave (Andy Bell, The Centre for Mental Health).
Sadly, this is not just a holiday period issue. Currently, the discharge delay can be up to six months or more, which is a shocking length of time to spend unnecessarily as an inpatient. It’s also extremely expensive. The cost of community health support is around one-fortieth of the cost of a hospital bed, meaning the delays are costing the NHS a fortune!
Is there a solution?
Yes! And it’s a simple solution. This is a community problem, not a hospital problem.
In order to send mental health patients home who have been deemed well enough, just a few things need to happen. Some phone calls need to be made to ensure care packages are in place, ensure care is handed over and that transport is arranged. That’s it!
No specific skills are required, just a desire to help get people back home. Understandably, nurses don’t have the time or the contacts to make these arrangements. Their top concerns are always the patients who still need their clinical attention.
But at Bridge, we have the time and the contacts to do what is necessary to get mental health patients out of hospital and back home.
Introducing Bridge Back Home (BBH) Service
Our dedicated BBH team has been operating in conjunction with the Oxleas Clinical Home Treatment Team (HTT) in Greenwich for six months. The aim of our team is to improve patient experience, reduce the average length of hospital stay and reduce the number of admissions back into hospital.
Following the immense success of the service, local health teams want to work with us for at least another 16 months, with a view to it becoming a permanent part of the system.
During our first six months the BBH service:
- has not had a single person return to hospital.
- have taken forty people home within a 4-8 week period.
The approximate cost of inpatient care is £500 per person, per day. That’s £62,000 per person over 124 days.
Having taken forty people home from hospital and prevented them from staying in hospital for four months longer than necessary, we have saved the NHS £2.48 million in our first six months!
Currently, we’re handling another forty cases. So, after nine months we will have taken eighty people home and therefore saved a total of £4.96 million.
Multiply these savings across a full year of service and we’ll have saved the NHS £7.44 million!
We are proud and excited to share these results. If you’d like any further information about our BBH service please don’t hesitate to contact us.