In September 2018 alone, there were 13,191 hospital bed days lost due to delayed discharge in London hospitals, costing the capital’s NHS a massive £4m and putting incredible pressure on social care services.
MP Helen Hayes recently identified social services authorities as being at “breaking point” and said that the impact on patients is “creating misery”. However, Edinburgh-based startup, Care Sourcer, believe a solution exists – and it lies in their groundbreaking care matching technology. Care Sourcer provide an entirely free care matching service – searching all 27,000 registered UK care providers and delivering a tailored list of all available providers and their prices within 24 hours. With UK-wide recognition for already successfully reducing NHS delayed transfers of care, increasing patient safety and reducing costs, Care Sourcer are poised to challenge the status quo in London.
A problem on an unprecedented scale
St Mary’s Hospital in London during the bed shortage crisis in January 2018
Delayed discharge has a devastating impact on patients. According to a 2017 report by Carnall Farrar, “patients can lose up to 5% of muscle strength per day and are at increased risk of acquiring infections.” Prolonged bed stays can also negatively impact the morale and independence of the patient and “increase the likelihood of them needing to go into a nursing or residential home after discharge.” This research highlights that it’s of course not just a strategic move for hospitals or social care services to rethink the discharge process, but it’s also very beneficial to the patients themselves
The scale of the delayed discharge problem is nothing new to health and social care professionals, who are faced with systemic problems due to lack of funding, staff shortages and an ageing population every single day.
While the crisis is country-wide, recent figures from London paint a particularly worrying picture. Research published by Care Sourcer shows the worst affected boroughs for average delayed discharge days per patient are Kensington and Chelsea (28.1 days), Barking and Dagenham (17.56 days) and the City of London (17.33 days.) Boroughs with the shortest delays per patient include Enfield (8.01 days), Brent (7.66 days) and Haringey (7.35 days.) While it is reassuring that not every Borough is working with delayed discharge rates of nearly a month, a week still feels like too long.
Details on each borough’s delayed discharge rates can be found in Care Sourcer’s report: www.caresourcer.com/london
Fixing a broken system
Typically, council or CCG-commissioned care for patients is found through the brokerage network, which takes an average of 11 days per patient in London. By contrast, Care Sourcer can get a care offer for a patient in London in 1 hour and 18 minutes from a CQC-registered care provider.
One of the reasons for these delays is a common misconception about commissioning care. Belinda Schwehr, CEO of charity CASCAIDr, which provides advice on NHS Continuing Health Care and Care Act rights, explains: “It is a common misconception amongst those working in the statutory social work sector that they are only able to use the “Preferred Provider” network that their borough has selected. But that just doesn’t have to be the case if direct payments or health budgets are made attractive and easy to use.
Personalisation within the care sector alongside the fundamentals of the Care Act enable care seekers, their proxies or their advocates to find and select any care provider they like, giving people far more choice and control of their lives.”
Care Sourcer can help social workers find care for individuals who are eligible for funding as well as those who are paying for their care privately. On top of the free service provided at www.caresourcer.com, they also offer a bespoke service for NHS trusts and CCGs that offer additional insights and help with delayed hospital discharges.
However the care is funded, Care Sourcer achieves a staggering reduction in wait time by directly connecting care providers with the people who need care and their advocates.
NHS Transformation Programme Director, Catherine Holmes says “Care Sourcer is an essential part of any winter escalation plan. It is an enabler for improving patient flow, it puts the power of choice back into the hands of the patient and it minimises the impact on health and social care staff time.”
Choice, cost and quality do not suffer at the expense of the speed of their offering. On average, a Care Sourcer care request in London can expect 10.06 offers back from providers, of which most are priced between £12.84 and £19.88, allowing the person looking for care to make an informed decision about what best suits them. Providers are all CQC-regulated and 59% of the providers offering in London are rated good or above, compared to 35% in the UK overall.
Proven 40% reduction in delayed discharges
Having proven to reduce delayed discharge by an astonishing 40% in a Gloucester hospital pilot, Care Sourcer is currently rolling its service out to the Hammersmith & Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group
With winter approaching and an already strained system creaking under the pressure, this might be the solution that can solve the delayed discharge crisis once and for all. By embracing technology like the one offered by Care Sourcer, we can work to innovate our sector and develop better processes that keep the service user at the heart of the matter.