The number of hospital beds in Wolverhampton occupied by patients who are well enough to be discharged home has fallen to its lowest level in many years.

Latest data shows that delayed transfers of care – often referred to in the media as ‘bed blocking’ – have fallen by over 70% in Wolverhampton in the last 24 months.

There are now on average 4 Wolverhampton residents per 100,000 of the adult population who were subject to a delayed transfer of care on any given day in April 2019 - down from just over 14 two years ago. 

The dramatic improvement means Wolverhampton was the 18th best performing health and social care system in April 2019 – up from 104th in April 2017 – and is now in the top quartile of health and social care systems nationwide, a position it has held since the turn of the year. The national average is 10 residents per 100,000 of the adult population, while the average in the West Midlands is 10.8.

A delayed transfer of care occurs when a patient is deemed fit to leave hospital but is delayed pending further assessment or support. As well as delaying the individual’s return home or to a supported care facility such as a residential or nursing home, this can cause considerable distress and an unnecessarily long stay in hospital for patients.

It can also affect waiting times for NHS care as it prevents new patients from having access to their hospital bed – leading to the term, ‘bed blocking’.

The turnaround has been brought about thanks to the joining up of local health and social care services and the development of new services by the City of Wolverhampton Council, Wolverhampton Clinical Commissioning Group and the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust.

These include the introduction of a new 'discharge to assess' process whereby people with health and social care support needs are assessed away from hospital settings, for instance in step-down beds in local care homes, or are supported to continue their reablement in their own home. 

Health and social care resources have also been pooled and new services commissioned with a focus on minimising hospital stays and maximising independence, including additional reablement services in people's own homes and care settings which help people regain the skills they may have lost during their time in hospital.

The partnership is not only reducing delayed transfers of care but also cutting the number of unnecessary hospital admissions in the first place - for instance by increasing the number of people who are using Telecare assistive technology to help them live independently for longer in their own homes.

Councillor Linda Leach, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Adult Services, said: "Over the last two years we and our partners have really focused our efforts on the issue of delayed transfers of care - and these latest figures show that all our hard work is beginning to bear fruit.

"Once it is safe for a patient to be discharged from hospital it is to everyone’s benefit that this is done so as quickly as possible. A few years ago, Wolverhampton was not where we would want it to be, but now it is in the top quartile nationally – and has been since January.

"This is good news for patients who are able to return to the comfort of their own home more quickly once their treatment in hospital has ended; it is also helping other patients who are benefitting from reduced waiting times for a bed because they can be freed up more quickly."

David Loughton, Chief Executive of the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, said: “Working in partnership benefits patients and staff alike. This combined focus has enabled more patients to receive care and support when they need it, reducing delays. The integrated approach is invaluable.”