The chief nursing officer for England, Jane Cummings, has issued a new winter plan that aims to support patients leaving hospital earlier by using care homes.
Professor Cummings issued the winter framework to help nursing staff ensure patients do not spend any longer than they need to in hospital, particularly this winter.
The framework has a particular emphasis on maximising the use of care homes across sustainability and transformation partnership (STP) areas, providing support to those that may be at risk of closure, and making best use of available beds so patients spend the minimum amount of time possible in hospital.
It also describes therapy-led units, where the focus is on reablement and rehabilitation with a reduced reliance on medical and registered nursing staff, thereby making safer therapeutic environments for medically fit for discharge patients in hospitals.
Environments should be created that focus on safe, effective and prompt discharge of patients and where people can move around in their own clothes, the framework says.
Figures suggest for those over 80 years old, a week spent in bed can equate to 10 years muscle ageing, a loss of 1.5kg of muscle mass and a 20% reduction in aerobic capacity. It can also lead to a five-fold increase in the risk of requiring institutional care.
As well as the debilitating impact caused by staying in bed for longer than necessary, it also adds to pressures on the health service. In July 2017, in the North of England alone, if every patient was discharged just one day earlier it would have released 2,707 bed days for other people, saving the NHS £5.6m, the framework states.
Professor Cummings said: ‘The last few months have been exceptionally busy in the NHS and I want to acknowledge all the hard work that has gone into planning for the increasing challenges of winter. I would also like to thank staff for their continued work to deal with these challenges.
‘Ensuring we build resilience in ourselves, our teams, in and across organisations is essential so we manage the months ahead with maximum certainty and confidence in our ability to provide safe care.
‘While our time is busy and important, our patients’ time is sacred – let’s make giving back time by enabling our patients to return to the place they call home our challenge. It’s one where every member of our clinical teams and every member of staff can have an impact and make a difference.
‘I ask all nurse leaders to look at how they can maximise patient time and support therapeutic environments.’