A NEW system is being launched which will speed-up discharge times for patients moving from hospital into a care home.

A digital ‘portal’ is being introduced by the NHS and councils across the region, which will enable health and social care staff to immediately see how many vacancies exist in local homes – alleviating the need to spend time phoning around.

The scheme will ultimately be rolled out across the country by NHS England, as part of its long-term plan for the health service.

Last year, about 250,000 hospital bed days nationally were taken-up by people who were medically fit enough to be discharged but who faced delays because an appropriate care home to meet their recovery needs couldn’t be found.

Health chiefs say that by working with councils, the NHS has already reduced the number of lost bed days by 20 per cent, and the so-called Capacity Tracker is among several measures being taken to cut the figures further.

More than 2,200 care homes in the region have signed-up to the new system, providing access to over 85,000 beds.

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, says the technology means patients will not be left waiting in hospital unnecessarily.

She added: “One of the central ambitions of the NHS long-term plan is to better support people to age well, and that means joining-up different services locally to improve how we meet people’s needs.

“By using this technology to work together more closely, hospitals, local authorities and care homes can ensure that people get the right care in the right place at the right time.

“Working with our local government, hospitals and community services – as well as patients and their families – has been essential to developing this new approach and will be key to rolling it out everywhere.”

Glen Garrod, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, welcomes the initiative.

But he says supporting people to help avert the need for them to enter hospital or a care home in the first place must also be a priority.

“We know that for the vast majority of people they are most comfortable staying in their own homes in their local communities for as long as possible so every effort should be made to keep people well and – where it’s feasible and safe – prevent the need to be admitted to hospital or a residential setting,” he said.