Delayed Hospital Discharges: How to Prevent Them?

Delayed discharge and unnecessary hospital admission are causing substantial pressure on the health and social sector in the UK. Can we, together, as a community, call for a change?

Delayed Hospital Discharges: How to Prevent Them?

At Catalyst Care Group, we understand the challenges local authorities face in navigating the demand and capacity to accommodate all discharge plans as they’re issued. We are committed to supporting commissioners in finding the best ways to allocate funding to reduce delayed discharges and improve people’s outcomes.

Why Delayed Hospital Discharges are Increasing

Despite the government’s efforts, delayed hospital discharges are still a major issue for care recipients, their families, hospitals and local authorities. In the social care sector, the rise of hospital discharges occurs due to a complex set of factors. In ideal circumstances, when a person detained at a hospital no longer meets the criteria to ‘reside’, the best place for them to continue receiving care and support is in the comfort of their own home. However, the process of discharging patients tends to be more challenging because of the limited care and support opportunities available in the local area.

For example, delayed discharge often occurs when there is a lack of safe and secure placement for the person to be discharged to, in cases where their own home is not an option. Consequently, this also causes overwhelming pressure on hospitals, NHS, and local authorities, and finding space for new people becomes a real challenge. The limited care and support opportunities stem from the lack of funding and resources and a shortage of appropriately trained health and social care workers.

Another reason for an increased number of delayed discharges, particularly in mental health services, involves a complex cycle of events. For example, when a person with neurodevelopmental differences experiences a mental health crisis, they might be unnecessarily detained in a hospital following the Mental Health Act. However, most of these hospital admissions are preventable with quality and person-centred care. Further, for people with autism and learning disabilities, the average hospital stay is often longer than five years, which can have detrimental consequences on their physical and mental health. To make matters worse, many of these people do not have a mental health condition.

Factors Contributing to Delayed Discharges

The discharge process is often delayed due to complex reasons, mostly associated with social and healthcare funding. Based on a study, the most common causes for delayed hospital discharge include:

  • Waiting for assessment
  • Funding challenges
  • Waiting for residential, nursing or domiciliary care
  • Operational challenges in NHS and social care

However, in most cases, the lack of appropriate and available placements caused a greater issue than the lack of funding. Further, the study found most people who experienced discharge delays felt deep social isolation caused by the lack of family members or carers around them, in both older adults and younger people. The sense of seclusion and abandonment that many people detained feel reflects negatively on their physical and emotional well-being, further contributing to delayed discharges.

Impact of Delayed Hospital Discharges

Hospital discharge delays have a significant impact on care recipients, their families, and community health services. Delayed hospital discharges significantly impact healthcare systems. Prolonged hospital stays affect hospital resources, leading to bed shortages, increased costs, and compromised patient care.

People are more susceptible to stress and mental health challenges, decreased mobility, and increased risk of injuries and negative outcomes. Efficient discharge planning and better social care coordination are essential to mitigate these challenges and ensure optimal resource utilisation while safeguarding patient well-being.

Impact on Individuals

Delayed hospital discharge often has an adverse effect on individuals and their families, posing an increased risk of uncertainty about the next step of their care journey. A number of patients show significantly reduced mental and physical health, and prolonged hospital stays also affect mood and morale. The lack of a person-centred and holistic approach due to bed and staff shortages in healthcare facilities can also be detrimental for individuals when all their skills and aspirations are overshadowed, leading to poor quality of life.

Impact on Healthcare Facilities

Hospital discharge delays pose significant pressure on healthcare facilities and healthcare workers. It increases the risk of running out of hospital beds and hospital capacity while increasing hospital and health system costs at the same time. Healthcare workers often feel close to burnout and lack the time and support to cope with the pressure. Hospital discharge delays also lead to a negative reputation and reduce hospital capacity for new people.

Strategies to Prevent Delayed Discharges

Reducing delayed discharges is a complex process involving a number of different factors. With better organisation, cooperation and mutual efforts, we can reduce discharge delays and improve people’s outcomes. We can take intentional actions and implement proactive strategies to change the way people with complex needs are supported. It is a long-term problem that requires a long-term solution which can be achieved gradually, step by step, with joint efforts.

Improving Coordination and Communication

Learning from past mistakes is the first step of the transformation journey. Our ongoing and consistent approach is learning, adapting, and navigating our services in coordination with colleagues across the system to ensure people receive the right care at the right time, in their own homes.

Reducing delayed discharges can be achieved through better partnerships with common goals, enhanced communication channels, and a clear focus on ensuring people are cared for in the community.

Home Care Services

Home care services are the best option for care and support after a hospital discharge. It’s the ideal place for a person to continue receiving care and support in the comfort of their own home. Usually, having person-centred and humanised care at home is what every person with complex needs desires, surrounded by the people they love. Making home care services more accessible to people with additional needs will greatly impact the entire community. This strategy requires close and consistent collaboration between care providers, families and local authorities in finding the best solutions to reduce discharge delays.

Transitional Care Programs

Transitional care programs (TSP) serve as vital bridges to get people out of hospitals faster and enable smooth, gentle transitions back into the community. This service was introduced a couple of years ago when one of our brands decided to create this short-term model to get people out of hospitals smoothly, safely and securely. However, the pathway doesn’t stop there. After the hospital discharge, the process further requires a competent, trusting, CQC-regulated provider to continue supporting the individual at home or in a homely setting. Our TSP division chooses only reliable and professional partners from the Catalyst Care Group house of brands to prevent hospital re-admission. Today, our TSP serves as a pathway into communities.

The Role of Healthcare Professionals

Through proactive and coordinated efforts, healthcare workers play a key role in preventing delayed hospital discharges. Timely clinical assessments and clear communication regarding people’s readiness for discharge are crucial. By collaboratively evaluating people’s health statuses, healthcare teams can ensure that discharge decisions align with established criteria, expediting the process of determining when people are medically fit for discharge. Additionally, healthcare professionals can facilitate efficient discharge planning by coordinating with various departments, such as social workers, rehabilitation specialists, and home care services, to arrange post-discharge care.

From the other perspective, the role of healthcare professionals extends to home services as well. Having a consistent and sufficient number of healthcare assistants, including clinicians and support workers, can significantly reduce the hospital length of stay for many people.

Advocacy for Policy Changes

In many cases, people with learning disabilities, autism or other mental health challenges end up detained due to a lack of proper and consistent care in the community. Very often, when a child or an adult experiences moments of crisis, families and caregivers are left on their own, without care and support to help them manage crisis situations. Consequently, many of these individuals will likely be admitted to a hospital and stay for many months or even years. The overwhelmed hospitals and residential homes result in a lack of person-centred, humanised and tailored care. This further results in the deteriorated mental and physical health of care recipients and their families, and the consequences are sometimes life-threatening.

As transforming care advocates, Catalyst Care Group works in collaboration with different local authorities and health and social care institutions to prevent hospital admissions and re-admissions and reduce delays. Our methodology aims to prevent acute hospital stays and long-term inpatient admissions by promoting the well-being of the individuals we serve and supporting local care.

When addressing the changing needs of individuals and families needing assistance, we believe getting care at home should always be the first option.

Catalyst Care Group is Working Towards Preventing Delayed Hospital Discharges

Instead of being detained under the Mental Health Act, we think that all neurodiverse individuals should have equal access to proactive, compassionate, and humanised care and assistance in their own homes.

We know that this can only be accomplished through cooperation within our extensive healthcare system and that we can change the world, one individual at a time, by connecting with other professionals.

Get in touch with our Referrals and Admissions team to discuss how we may help you or to submit a referral.

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