Computer system cuts bed-blocking

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, new figures reveal.

The programme – a collaboration between the Countess of Chester Hospital, Chester social services and Medisec Software – connects patient records at the trust with the social services access team, detailing information on their personal care needs and medical history.

It also notifies social workers of the dates when patients are fit for assessment and discharge, fulfilling the requirements of the Community Care (Delayed Discharge etc) Act 2003.

In the 10 weeks before the act was fully implemented in January, 15.2 bed days were lost due to delayed discharge to social services. In the 10 weeks since the new electronic referral system’s introduction in March, this was cut to 4.2 days.

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 detail.

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

Coralie Smith, IM&T manager at the Countess of Chester Hospital, added: “Referral by phone was not standardised and could not be audited. It depended on the judgement of the nurse and the questions asked by the social worker.

“This ensures that social care staff have all the information they need immediately, such as the patient’s ability with personal hygiene, mobility, feeding and mental state.”

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