John Kell, Head of Policy at the Patients Association, said:
“This report shows that in some ways the NHS’s ability to use its beds ever-more intensively has been a success story over the last few decades – but it can’t produce benefits exponentially. It’s equally clear that we’re not good enough at either keeping people out of hospital or getting people safely and promptly out of hospital.
“The solutions to these problems often go hand-in-hand with improving patient experiences: timely joint replacement surgery and well-co-ordinated care for people with complex conditions reduce demand on hospitals precisely because they achieve better outcomes for patients.
“Under-resourcing of care for people in their own homes – both social care and, increasingly, NHS Continuing Healthcare – is implicated heavily as a barrier to progress in this report. Without this, too many patients will be kept for too long in hospital beds when they could have been discharged.
“Ultimately the evidence presented here casts further doubt on the viability of the proposals of some STPs to reduce hospital bed capacity significantly – and unfortunately, for some that is key to the ‘sustainability’ aspect of their plans. While initiatives to reduce demand on hospitals and safeguard against unsafe bed closures are welcome, perhaps we need to move away from the assumption that service transformation means reducing acute capacity significantly below current levels, and instead think about it more in terms of improving patient experiences and outcomes, and avoiding a steep climb in demand for acute care.”