New fund to support digital solutions to bed blocking

NHS bodies in England invite councils to apply for money to develop reusable solutions for digital assessment, discharge and withdrawal notices

English local authorities have been offered a £1.4 million pot to work on digital systems to beat the bed blocking problem plaguing the NHS.

NHS Digital and NHS England have joined up in making the money available to support partnerships between councils and health service bodies to create integrated digital assessment, discharge and withdrawal notices (ADWs).

Tom DenwoodTom Denwood (pictured), director of data and integration at NHS Digital said: "Local authorities and their NHS partners have a huge challenge ahead of them in tackling the steadily worsening problems caused by delayed transfers of care, so that patients can be supported back into their own homes and regain their independence as quickly as possible.

"These issues impact on the NHS, the patients and their carers, especially during the winter months when demand on public health services increases.

"We know that technology has the potential to speed up the discharge process by integrating the health and social care IT systems, and we are here to support both local government and the wider NHS to help make this happen."

Re-use requirement

The organisations have opened the door for applications for funds from councils with responsibilities in adult social care, and which are working on systems that would be available for others to use.

NHS Digital pointed to its own Messaging Service for Social Care that can be used in the local solutions and that complies with the relevant information standard, but said local authorities are free to create their own solution so long as it also complies.

The National Audit Office reported in 2016 that there was an estimated £820 million gross cost to the NHS, due to approximately 2.7 million older patients in hospital who no longer required acute treatment and leading to 1.15 million hospital bed days lost.

The current, non-digital systems in place to handle ADWs have been identified by local authorities and their NHS partners as one of the stumbling blocks to the transfer of care. This is creating the risk of local authorities being non-compliant with the Care Act 2014.

Image from NHS Digital, Open Government Licence v3.0