Health Trusts across Northern Ireland have today reminded patients and their relatives or carers of the need to leave acute hospitals as soon as they are deemed fit for discharge.
Hospital services across Northern Ireland are under extreme pressure at present and that situation could worsen over the next month to six weeks. The Trusts are therefore asking for the full cooperation of patients and families in the planning of discharges.
Speaking on behalf of the five hospital Trusts, Wendy Magowan, Director of Operations at the Northern Trust, said:
“We are communicating directly with patients on the importance of timely discharge - both for their own well-being and to ensure that as many beds as possible are available to those who need to be in hospital.”
On admission to hospital, patients are now being given letters setting out the approach to discharge planning. The letter acknowledges that any admission to hospital is stressful for both patients and their families or carers. However, it also points out that an unnecessary or prolonged hospital stay can be detrimental as patients may develop infections which can have a significant impact on long-term recovery.
Continuing Wendy Magowan said:
“Discharge home will always the first option, but many patients will require additional care and support through other services or an alternative placement. In the event that patients require further rehabilitation, consideration will be given as to the most suitable option and that may include transfer to another hospital or step-down bed.”
The pressures on domiciliary care have been well rehearsed. These are being exacerbated by the spread of the Omicron variant, with staff absenteeism likely to increase. This will result in increased delays in care packages becoming available.
“In the event that a patient requires a new or increased packaged of care, and it is not immediately available, family members will be required to provide support upon discharge until the package of care becomes available,” said Wendy Magowan.
“Alternatively, patients could move to a care home/step-down bed, if there is a place available, to provide them with safe and effective care whilst they await the provision of the package of care. Care home fees will be waived during this period.”
“The stark reality is we need acute hospital beds for acutely ill people.”
Patients requiring a place in a nursing or residential care home, but where a home of their choice is not immediately available, will be transferred to an alternative home until a bed becomes available in their preferred care home.