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The NHS has a problem with bed management, and it is not caused by bed blocking, but in the way patient flow is managed from the point of admission, argues Neil Griffiths, managing director of TeleTracking UK, who claims automated bed management solutions are the way forward.
Every year the NHS opens 3,500-4,000 escalation beds over winter to accommodate additional demand.
And, every year, NHS trusts spend between £2m-£7m adding capacity.
Yet, take any performance measure and it is absolutely clear that this approach to bed management is flawed, potentially fatally so.
Better management of bed utilisation would increase capacity by 3,000 hospital beds per day.
The 95% target for A&E patients to be seen within four hours has not been met since July 2015, with more than 75,000 patients forced to spend at least half an hour this winter with ambulance crews waiting to be treated.
And, in January, 13 hospital trusts were forced to temporarily send patients to other nearby trusts 35 times.
Yet how would these patients feel if they knew that many of the ostensibly ‘full’ beds were actually lying empty awaiting cleaning and reallocating?
Or to discover that the average bed in the NHS is left ‘idle’ between a patient being discharged and a new patient being admitted for six to eight hours, when proven best practice shows it should be as little as one hour and 45 minutes?
There is no need for these delays, and no need for additional temporary wards.
There is already enough room in the system, and better management of bed utilisation would increase capacity by 3,000 hospital beds per day.