New mobile phone technology is helping local authorities to alleviate NHS bed blocking, it was shown today, following trials around the country. The new technology can help speed up hospital discharges and prevent unnecessary re-admissions, freeing up vital beds and also reducing the cost of post-hospital care.
The announcement comes at a time of growing divisions between local government and the health service over bed blocking, which is widely seen as a major contributor to the NHS's present difficulties. The new technology offers local authorities a way of continuing to support people in their own homes, which they say is increasingly difficult.
To tackle one cause of bed blocking, in October 2016 the London Borough of Hounslow partnered with West Middlesex Hospital to help improve the quality and speed of some discharges by providing a Linkline+ Telecare kit, based around a specialist mobile device with an emergency button.
Emergency buttons are not new but traditionally they involve costly equipment installations at home, with discharges sometimes delayed days or weeks while the work is done. By contrast, at the heart of the Telecare kit is a choice of two specialist mobile devices, OwnFone and Footprint, that end the need for fixed installations. West Middlesex Hospital keeps a number of the kits to hand, with the devices already live, so discharges can happen quickly.
Linkline+ offers its Telecare packs free of charge to Hounslow residents for the first six weeks following discharge. After initial trials, 83% of users valued the service enough to subscribe as direct clients. Meanwhile, a three-month trial of a similar service in the West Midlands town of Dudley found a reduction in the number of people being re-admitted to hospital, which was not only good news for the Telecare users but represented a saving to the NHS of £600 per averted re-admission.
"Our ability to provide an instantly available, emergency contact system to patients on discharge can make a tangible difference to their lives and to the freeing up of hospital beds, which is why we're in talks with local authorities and care providers about extending the service to many other regions of the country."
For more information on London Borough of Hounslow and West Middlesex Hospital’s work with OwnFone and Footprint click here.