‘Ward walkers’ now working at Friarage Hospital to get patients discharged quickly

The Friarage Hospital.

Teams of so-called ward walkers are leading efforts to get more patients discharged quickly from North Yorkshire hospitals.

North Yorkshire Council staff, officially called transfer of care co-ordinators, work alongside NHS colleagues to identify patients who are fit for discharge but will need support as they convalesce in the community.

They are able to put arrangements in place, ranging from short care-home stays to having volunteers help to get people’s own homes ahead of their return from hospital.

Without that support, they would have to stay in hospital longer, taking up beds which could be used for new patients.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for health and adult services, Cllr Michael Harrison, said: “There has been a lot of publicity over so-called bed-blocking and the pressures on hospitals and adult social care recently.

“The reality is, in North Yorkshire we have been working to help alleviate this problem for some time by helping to get people out into the community, with the care they need.

“More recently, we have been working harder than ever, looking for better solutions, and doing as much as we can with as many partners as possible.

“The success of that approach is reflected in the increased numbers of people we have helped to get discharged from hospitals.

“In any given week, social care is supporting between 75 and 100 people to get home from hospital – that’s twice as many people as before the Covid-19 pandemic – and nearly 2,000 people have been assisted to get home since December.

“This has been made possible partly due to the financial support we have had from the Government’s Discharge Fund, but also due to additional investment from the council.

“That is good news for patients, because most people would rather be at home or at least staying in a caring environment, than remaining in hospital.

“It is also good news for the community at large, because it means there are more hospital beds available for those who might need them.”

All the main hospitals serving the county – the Friarage, James Cook, Airedale, York, Harrogate, Scarborough and York – are involved in the work. The scheme was instigated before the Covid-19 pandemic but has now been stepped up further.

Having council staff linked to – and often based in – hospitals, where they can see patients immediately and make accurate assessments of their needs, is regarded as key to this progress, because it means the correct level of support can be put in place quickly and smoothly.

In several areas of the county, additional money from the Government’s latest Discharge Fund has been used to expand community beds and other services.

In the Craven area, there are eight beds permanently available at the council-run Ashfield care home in Skipton, where people leaving Airedale Hospital, who are unable to return to their own homes immediately, can convalesce and undergo further rehabilitation.

In North Yorkshire, decisions have been taken to provide innovative solutions with intermediate care, including support for the voluntary sector. That includes the Home from Hospital service, which helps to ensure patients’ homes are suitable for their return from hospital with essentials like fresh groceries, and community transport schemes.