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NHS trusts use national funding to access hospital discharge services via NHS SBS framework

26 April 2021

Phil Davies

Phil Davies As the government announces almost £600 million for its hospital discharge programme, Phil Davies, Procurement Director at NHS Shared Business Services (NHS SBS), says NHS trusts can use it to access extra capacity via the Patient Discharge Services Framework.

One of the inevitable consequences of the pandemic has been the huge pressure on hospital beds across the country. In January this year, amidst more than 100,000 Covid-19 hospital admissions, media reports suggested that more than a fifth of all general and acute beds in England were occupied by patients staying two weeks or more - with this rising to almost one in three in some regions.

The recent news of £594 million set aside for safe hospital discharge will, therefore, have been welcomed by NHS trusts up and down the country. Part of a wider £6.6 billion package to support the next phase of the NHS pandemic response over the next six months, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the ring-fenced hospital discharge funding would provide NHS staff with 'the resources needed to enable patients to leave hospital as quickly and as safely as possible, with the right community or at-home support'. Announcing the new funding in Parliament, the Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, stated that - in the last 12 months - the NHS hospital discharge programme had "freed up over 6,000 beds - and with it the valuable time of 11,000 NHS staff".

This also coincides with a more than tenfold increase in the use of our Patient Discharge Services Framework, as NHS hospitals secured additional capacity last year from independent providers of 'hospital at home' and rehab services.

With the national hospital discharge programme now extended - and new funding available for extra resources - we expect many more healthcare providers will now look to the framework to commission support quickly and easily. This will reduce hospital bed occupancy and relieve pressure on inpatient services, helping NHS trusts tackle the backlog of elective procedures that has grown significantly as a result of Covid-19.

Indeed, earlier this year and ahead of the new DHSC funding announcement, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) had already encouraged NHS systems to use the framework as a way of helping discharge patients who no longer need to be in hospital.

The Patient Discharge Services Framework itself was developed so that patients deemed medically fit for discharge can do so in a safe and timely manner. It helps NHS and other public sector organisations to access supplementary services to support this transition and prevent readmissions to hospital.

Approved framework suppliers have the experience and capabilities to ensure that patients continue to receive high-quality care from appropriately trained professionals, such as registered nurses, after being discharged from hospital.

One NHS provider that has used the framework to excellent effect is James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in East Anglia, which has worked with one framework supplier to establish the 'Paget @ Home' service, accessing what it describes as "professional, flexible and quality patient care within the home setting". Despite the challenges of developing new patient pathways across various agencies, the Trust found that Homelink Healthcare"helped to simplify the process - providing project management support and governance guidelines, as well as expertise across finance, contracting and strategic development".

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, meanwhile, has worked with the same framework supplier to co-create 'NNUH at Home' - providing clinical care in the home to release in-patient bed capacity and improve patient choice. Since the service began in 2019, over 9,000 bed days have been saved - with 80% of patients discharged on or before their expected discharge date.

In total, the framework - which runs until March 2023 - has 16 approved suppliers across three different Lots. The first is 'Discharge to Assess', which covers people that do not need a hospital bed but may still require care services and lower level support. These patients are provided with short term support so they can be discharged to their own home or another community setting.

Lot 2 is 'Third Party Brokerage' and is designed to reduce delayed transfers of care. These providers work with patients and their families outside of traditional care hours, supporting people to move to a care home, step-down care or back into their own home.

The final Lot is 'Medical Care at Home' - also known as Secondary Care at Home or a Virtual Ward. Here a medical professional provides care in the patient's home and is responsible for medical procedures, safety and recovery. Services here are for patients who are at risk of hospitalisation, which can be avoided by a more coordinated and collaborative case management approach by their GP, district nurse, social services, specialist nurses or third sector organisation.

With the new DHSC funding intended to 'free up thousands of extra beds and staff time to help the NHS recover services', the extra capacity available via the Patient Discharge Services Framework can benefit NHS systems up and down the country.

The ready-made agreement will be an increasingly important route for NHS providers to procure any additional support they need to reduce the length of stay for patients in hospital.

To find out more contact the NHS SBS Procurement team on 0161 212 3940 or email nsbs.contractenquiries@nhs.net.

Article first published by Health Business.