Knowledge – not just funding – is key to unlocking patient flow

Published 04 April, 2024

With increased demand caused by falls, COVID-19, and other seasonal illnesses, winter is the busiest time for the NHS. Against the backdrop of continuing industrial action, this year looks set to be extremely challenging for hardworking staff and patients.

What remains a constant truth is that patient flow will be the battleground for the NHS once again this winter. But what is our strategy for success?

The impact of delayed discharge

Increased demand and lack of capacity has a significant impact on wellbeing and experience. As hospitals fill up, it becomes harder to discharge patients. This leads to thousands of people every day left stuck in hospital despite being ‘medically optimised’ and able to leave. The impact of delayed discharge on system efficiencies is well documented, and unnecessary hospital stays has also been shown to be detrimental to patient health and wellbeing.

The hospital’s backdoor plays a pivotal role in shaping the front door experience. When hospital beds reach full capacity, it results in the unfortunate scenario we witnessed last winter, with ambulance response times hitting their all-time low. In the Southeast of England, it was reported that 104 lives were lost in the final quarter of 2022, with ambulance delays identified as an important factor. The region’s Ambulance Foundation Trust, announced that these loss of lives were related to delays that “are thought to be the result of pressures within the wider health system

Timely action and preparation is urgently needed.

Often, we look to central funding announcements as the solution. Indeed, the government has announced they are investing £200 million to support winter resilience, but this money is intended to meet the costs incurred by industrial strikes. It cannot be used for new initiatives and the response to this funding has been mixed at best. £40 million has also just been announced to strengthen social care capacity and improve hospital discharge in the areas with the biggest urgent and emergency care challenges.

But will funding be the answer? Well, not necessarily.

In October 2022, the government announced £200m to help tackle winter pressures. We took a close look at the data from last winter. When you compare October 2022 and March 2023, this funding only resulted in an average decrease of 0.16% in the number of patients remaining in hospital who no longer met the criteria to reside.

Understanding why this money didn’t have a bigger impact is difficult. But from years of work with the NHS, what is clear is that knowledge of local services and systems is key.

For funding to really impact, it needs to be managed carefully and invested where it can make a difference to reducing increased pressures over the winter period.

Working together this winter.

Xyla brings over 25 years’ experience in improving patient flow. We can improve patient flow through outcome-focused commitments to you and your patients. We are ready to mobilise, offering you flexible ways to partner with us, and helping to operate your integrated discharge system.

We have designed a range of services – underpinned by knowledge and understanding of what works – and we will work with you on an outcome focused basis. From free and pay-as-you go services through to longer term partnerships, working together we guarantee to improve your average hospital discharge performance by 5 days or less.

Get in touch to talk to us about our flexible and easy to implement solutions.

Contact Maria Knowles  for further information.

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