Call for nursing home beds to be used to take pressure off hospitals

Nursing Homes Ireland urges patients be discharged to its members’ care facilities

Nursing Homes Ireland’s Tadhg Daly says the full capacity of the nursing home sector should be “utilised” to ensure patients are discharged when ready, and “those who need to get in” have  hospital beds. Photograph: Frank Miller

Nursing Homes Ireland’s Tadhg Daly says the full capacity of the nursing home sector should be “utilised” to ensure patients are discharged when ready, and “those who need to get in” have hospital beds. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Discharging to nursing homes suitable patients from acute hospital beds should be “ramped up” to ease pressure on emergency departments, Tadhg Daly, chief executive of Nursing Homes Ireland has said.

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI), the representative body for voluntary and private nursing homes, said there are currently around 1,400 vacant beds across the sector.

Mr Daly said speeding up the discharge and transition of patients from acute hospital wards to nursing homes would free up more beds during the period of pressure on the health service.

The number of people waiting on trolleys in emergency departments reached a record high of 656, according to “Trolley Watch” figures released on Tuesday by the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives Organisation.

Mr Daly said the flow of patients being discharged from hospitals to nursing homes always slowed around Christmas time, but the rate should be “ramped up” again now, given the seasonal pressure on hospital services.

He said the full capacity of the nursing home sector should be “utilised” to ensure patients are discharged from wards when ready, and “those who need to get in” have available hospital beds.

Short-term care

Delays in discharging elderly patients from hospital wards increased their risk of picking up “hospital-acquired infections”, Mr Daly said. He said the nursing home sector was equipped to provide short-term care to transition patients from acute hospitals back into the community.

“Nursing homes are dedicated healthcare settings with teams of specialist health and social care personnel, including teams of nurses and carers,” he said. The spare capacity in the sector could “provide short-term care that can enable hundreds of timely discharges from acute hospitals back into the community”.

The representative body called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to ensure management in acute hospitals was engaging with the nursing home sector to use the available bed capacity.

Currently about 500 patients a week are recorded as “delayed discharges”, whose release from hospital may be held up due to a number of factors. A spokeswoman for the HSE said factors other than overall bed capacity in nursing homes could lead to delayed discharges.

These include patients who may have more complex care needs, patients waiting for a bed to become available in “the residential centre of their choice”, or patients waiting for homecare arrangements to be organised. Delays can also occur while patients are gathering the required financial information to apply for the Fair Deal nursing home support scheme.

The spokeswoman said the number of delayed discharges had been reduced significantly from 800 cases a week in November 2014, to about 500 according to current figures.