THE NHS in Gwent has said “significant pressures” at its hospitals have led to it pleading for families to take patients home.
The Aneurin Bevan University Health Board issued an “urgent message” on its Facebook page appealing for those with loved ones in hospital, who are able to be discharged, to care for them at home.
The board runs the Grange Hospital, near Cwmbran, as well as Newport’s Royal Gwent, Nevill Hall in Abergavenny and smaller community hospitals across the region.
But it said its services were “under significant pressure” when it posted the message just after 4pm on Tuesday, November 28.
The plea also states that staying in hospital “too long after treatment can have a negative effect on people’s recovery” and said when medics have agreed a loved one can be discharged “it is better for their physical and emotional health that they recover at home or usual place of residence”.
It also asked people to share its post with family and friends.
The full post, that was shared with an “urgent message” graphic stated: “Our services are under significant pressure today. Now, more than ever, if you have a loved one in hospital who no longer needs medical care and is able to be discharged please consider taking them home and caring for them.
“Staying in hospital for too long after treatment can have a negative effect on people’s recovery. When our medical team has agreed that your loved one can be discharged, it is better for their physical and emotional health that they recover at home or usual place of residence.
“Please help us to make our service safer by sharing this information with friends and family and supporting our staff to care for your loved one in the right place.”
In September the board said there were some 300 patients fit to be discharged stuck in its hospital beds at that time – which it said could cost it more than £20 million if the situation remained the same for the rest of the financial year.
Winter pressures, from worsening weather and more respiratory illnesses, usually mean the number of patients in hospital will normally increase over the winter months.
The NHS refers to those patients who cannot move out of hospital even though they are well enough to be discharged as ‘delayed transfers of care’ – the term “bed blocking” also commonly used, and is often related to the inability of local authorities to provide social care packages, including home visits, to those patients outside of hospital.
Last week Monmouthshire council, one of the five local authorities in the Gwent region served by the Aneurin Bevan board, reported that in the last financial year the number of care hours it was unable to meet had reduced from a peak of 2,000 but the average of unmet care hours was still 834 a week.
When the health board announced the outcome of its review of discharge plans in September it acknowledged “current challenges with community-based care” meant “a large proportion” of the options medics would consider around discharge “could involve asking relatives to care for patients at home while they await a package of care.”
Dr Andy Bagwell, the board’s deputy medical director, said in September: “The unfortunate reality is that if we don’t take action now, the resultant overcrowding in the hospital bed base will impact on the safety of the patient care we can deliver. Hospital care has to be reserved for those who are unwell. As soon as hospital care is no longer required, the safest and best place for a patient is to be at home or in appropriate residential care.
“We will need the support of families to help these patients leave – if patients are medically fit to leave hospital then they will be discharged, and family members may need to be asked to provide input until a package of care becomes available.”