A new digital portal is being introduced which allows health and social care staff to see how many vacancies there are in local care homes, with the aim of reducing delayed transfers of care.
The tool, Capacity Tracker, aims to save hours of time by reducing the need to phone around to check availability of of care services that will allow them return home or move into a care home as quickly as possible after a hospital stay.
In 2018, around a quarter of a million hospital bed days in England were taken up by people who were medically fit enough to be discharged, but who faced delays in an appropriate care home being found that could meet their recovery needs.
Making the Capacity Tracker has been piloted in the North, Devon and Berkshire and is now being rolled out nationally in the hopes of reducing even more delayed transfers of care.
The digital portal is accessible on any device, and should take providers no more than 30 seconds to upload details of their available beds, helping health and social care staff to find the right services for individual patients, including those with dementia or a learning disability. Over 6,250 care homes have already signed up to the system.
The roll-out of the tool will contribute to ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan to upgrade support in reducing delayed transfers of care, including better sharing of information between care homes and hospital staff.
Ruth May, Chief Nursing Officer for England said, 'One of the central ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan is to better support people to age well, and that means joining up different services locally to better meet people’s needs.
'By using this technology to work together more closely, hospitals, local authorities and care homes can ensure that people get the right care in the right place at the right time, and aren’t left waiting in hospital unnecessarily.
'Working with our local government, hospitals and community services as well as patients and their families has been essential to developing this new approach and will be key to rolling it out everywhere.'
As well as offering improved care for patients and care home residents, the new initiative links health and social care professionals more closely and reduces wasted time and resources.
Glen Garrod, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said, 'We know that for the vast majority of people, they are most comfortable staying in their own homes in their local communities for as long as possible, so every effort should be made to keep people well and where it’s possible and safe, to prevent the need to be admitted to hospital, or indeed a residential setting, in the first place.
'However, if people do need to go to hospital then health and social care must work together to support people through their period in hospital, and on discharge to help them return home wherever that is possible. We must think ‘home first’. If after a thorough discussion with the person and their family, it is decided that going home is not an option and a residential care home is required then it is important we work together, with individuals and their families, to support them to make an informed choice based upon the information and advice provided.'
The Capacity Tracker provides a ‘shop window’ for care homes across the country to share their vacancies as well as other important information about the care home, to enable an informed choice to be made. It can be accessed on any device and improves efficiency of discharge teams.
The North of England Commissioning Support Unit, funded by NHS England, developed the tracker, and led the pilot. Care homes, local authority, CCG and hospital staff were involved in creating the system, and Care Home Champions are being regularly encouraged to give feedback to improve and spread its use.
If care homes need help registering, a dedicated team provides telephone support for registration and uploading information. Find out more on the Capacity Tracker website.