Scheme to tackle bed blocking is impressive

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It’s hard to put a price on the value of a really good idea. But at Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital, it’s plain to see the cash potential of a little bit of smart thinking.

As we report today, the hospital has saved £1.6m in six months using an idea so simple that it’s almost hard to believe nobody thought of it before.

Bed-blocking – where patients who do not necessarily need to be in hospital are using up vital resources – is a long-standing problem which costs health trusts up and down the country millions of pounds each year.

And at a time when every penny counts, it’s vital that only those patients who truly need hospital care are allowed to tie up beds, not to mention the time of nurses and doctors who are already run off their feet.

QA’s method is simple – patients who are aged 65 and over are given a brief assessment upon arrival to see whether they do really need to use up a hospital bed.

Those who do not are given advice, and arrangements are made for treating them at home or elsewhere in the community.

The results are astounding – with the scheme have seen 1,015 patients so far and arranging for 584 of them to be treated elsewhere.

That means more than half the over-65s who would previously have been admitted to hospital are now being cared for in a more efficient way.

Such a result may understandably raise concerns over whether hospital staff could be tempted to be a bit too keen to get problematic patients off the premises in order to keep up this impressive level of performance.

But we trust that the proper checks are in place to make sure that all those who really do need to be looked after on a ward get the opportunity.

It’s precisely the sort of intelligent thinking that Queen Alexandra Hospital has been forced to demonstrate as it seeks to be given Foundation Status – which has become something of a badge of honour for hospitals. And it’s something that not just the hospital, but also other public sector organisations, would do well to learn from.