Electronic referrals cut delayed hospital discharges by two thirds

A pioneering electronic referral system in Cheshire has slashed
delayed hospital discharges by more than two thirds and enabled a
seamless move to social care, writes Craig

The system connects patient records at the Countess of Chester
Hospital to Chester County Council social services access team,
detailing information on their personal care needs and medical
It also notifies social workers of the dates when patients are fit
for assessment and discharge, fulfilling the requirements of the
Delayed Discharge Act.

In the ten weeks before the act was introduced in January, 15.2 bed
days were lost due to delayed discharge; in the ten weeks since the
new program’s introduction in March, this was cut to

Rhiannon Wilson, access team leader at Chester social services,
said, “We used to take telephone referrals from a nurse at
the hospital, but we often had to ring them back for more

The access team is a “front door” for social services,
with 14,000 contacts a year – so having to fill in any gaps in
information put staff under pressure, said Ms Wilson.

“This approach has made a huge difference to my staff in
having the information that we really need to fit an
individual’s package of care. You don’t see
inappropriate discharges now – the patient is the

The referral system is an extension of the hospital’s
existing Medisec program and uses a secure connection to transmit
data. Referrals can be made outside office hours and colour coding
is used to alert social services staff when key data has been
changed, such as the confirmed discharge date.

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