A council scheme to reduce hospital “bed blocking” in Mansfield and Ashfield has saved the NHS £1.3million a year according to a new report.
Since 2014, the scheme has been running at King’s Mill Hospital in Sutton to help patients who can’t leave hospital because they have no suitable accommodation to go back to.
Called the ASSIST Hospital Discharge Scheme, Mansfied District Council has been working with with Nottinghamshire County Council social services and NHS and has successfully saved the hospital £1.37 million as well as changing the cirumstances of 1,127 patients.
A report by Nottingham Trent University and Mansfield and Ashfield CCG has concluded that the scheme, part funded by the NHS and Mansfield District Council, saves well over a million a year ad only costs £233,520. The savings equate to around £936 or 4.5 bed days per patient and hospital users are aided into housing
Bed blocking is a major national issue and an increasingly costly problem for hospitals and NHS as a whole. In May, the National Audit Office published a report on the lost hospital beds indicating a 30-per cent rise over two years. Patients cumulatively spent a total of 3,150 years in hospital beds when they should have been discharged. the number of unnecessary days in hospitals when beds were occupied by patients, who should have been discharged, had increased by 31 per cent over the past two years to 1.15 million days.
The benefits of the ASSIST scheme, which began in 2014, have been evaluated by Peter Murphy and Dr Donald Harradine, of the University and Ryan Cope, of the CCG, between July 2015 and April 2016. Underlining the success and significance of the scheme Michelle Turton, Housing Needs Manager at Mansfield District Council, this week presented the benefits of the scheme at a conference held at the Social Care Institute for Excellence.
The scheme works by social workers from the county council identifying patients who have housing issues that are preventing their discharge from hospital and then ASSIST officers from Mansfield District Council working to find a solution.
This could be making adaptations to a patient’s home or it could mean that patients move into temporary supported council housing while a more permanent housing solution is found.
Portfolio Holder for Housing at Mansfield District Council, Cllr Barry Answer, said: “This is a marvellous scheme so we really hope there will be funding that enables it to continue.
“It has been saving the NHS a huge amount of money. But it has also made a real difference to the lives of hundreds of patients at a vulnerable time in their lives - and that is something you cannot put a price on.”
Mansfield District Council Director of Communities added: “The significance of this scheme has been recognised nationally and we as a local authority are extremely proud to have been a trailblazer. We’re leading the way on how to work effectively together with other agencies to deliver a valuable service that not only saves money but in some cases may have saved lives, too, by helping some of our most vulnerable people.”
Nick Fuller is a veteran of the first Gulf War in 1991. During the conflict he was caught in a roadside bomb in Iraq and left with shrapnel in his knees - as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The physical and psychological pain of his wartime service ended in him seeking relief through drugs and alcohol. Before long he had a serious addiction to both.
He ended up on the streets in Mansfield where he was picked up and given temporary housing in the council’s Tideswell units for homeless people.
Mr Fuller was a regular patient in the emergency department at King’s Mill Hospital and it was while he was admitted with head injuries, suffered during a seizure, that Mansfield District Council’s ASSIST scheme stepped in to help.
It was clear Mr Fuller would need intensive support and intervention to remain alcohol-free once he was discharged and avoid re-admissions to hospital in the future, so ASSIST tried to help the 47-year-old ex-serviceman to get his life back on track.
He was offered supported housing in Pleasley Springs and was put in touch with the Royal British Legion which helped to acquire furniture and other essentials for him, and pay some of his debts.
After his discharge from hospital, the ASSIST team made sure he was receiving the right state benefits and helped him claim backdated housing benefit to clear his rent arrears.
ASSIST support workers also helped him devise a workable budget and encouraged him to go into rehab. They managed to secure him a place at the BAC O’Connor Centre in Burton upon Trent where he has now moved into supported accommodation connected to the centre.
Mr Fuller said: “The ASSIST scheme basically saved my life. The doctors told me that if I had carried on the way I was doing, I would have been dead in six to 12 months.”
As well as heroin, crack cocaine and other drugs, Mr Fuller was also consuming up to 12 litres of strong cider a day. Now he is looking forward to a life free from addiction having recently “graduated” from the BAC O’Connor Centre. Members of the ASSIST team have supported him all the way and were there at his graduation ceremony to congratulate him on turning his life around.
“I have been given a new lease of life,” he said. “When I look back on all those years of addiction, they were just a blur.
“Now I am taking life steady and not rushing anything, but I would maybe like to go back to college and study health and social care and volunteer at the Centre, to give something back.”