Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is calling on the public to ensure patients can leave hospital as soon as they are well enough.
The trust has launched a campaign, #HelpingYouToGetHome, which asks families, friends and carers to help.
At any one time, the trust says, up to about 50 patients in the hospital are well enough to go home, but are still awaiting discharge.
Discharges can be delayed for a number of complex reasons, often in relation to further care the patient will need after they leave hospital.
Staff do all they can to ensure patients can leave hospital in a timely, well-planned and supported way, but also rely on support from local people to help.
Chief Nurse Julie Marshman said: “It’s absolutely essential for patients to receive care in the best place for them, which will not always be a large acute hospital.
"As winter approaches, it’s crucial that our beds are available for patients who need medical intervention and care in a hospital setting.
“The most important thing is that we start talking with patients and their families about any long-term care needs they may have early on.
"Often a patient is well enough to leave hospital, but needs further care, either at home, in a rehabilitation facility or in a nursing or care home, which can take a long time to arrange.
“We understand the importance of getting patients back to the comfort of their own homes and do not want to keep them in a large acute hospital any longer than is needed.
"This is because however good the care is in hospital, many patients can deteriorate after a longer stay, particularly patients who are frail and have dementia.
“Once a patient is well enough to leave hospital, the best option may be to receive ongoing care in another care setting where the patient can continue their recovery.”
As part of the campaign, the trust has introduced a new information leaflet which highlights what local people can do to help get their loved ones home, as well as what to expect from NHS staff. It is hoped that the leaflet will prompt discussions and help health and social care staff plan the patient’s ongoing care earlier.
Dr Ruth Grabham, Medical Director, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This year, like never before, people have gone out of their way to support the NHS but, as we head into what is expected to be a very busy winter, one of the most productive methods of helping the health service is to know the practical steps that can be taken to help a friend or relative leave hospital when ready to be discharged.
“Whether it’s being available to offer transport on the day of discharge, ensuring there’s enough food in the patient’s cupboards for when they get home or just being there to engage in a constructive dialogue with healthcare professionals about next steps, these small things really do make a difference in helping people to get on their way in a timely, yet safe and supported, way.”
The trust says families, friends and carers can help by:
- Being promptly available to take part in discussions around the patient's recovery and on-going care needs, so that arrangements can be made early on
- Arranging help around the home for when the patient is discharged
- Working with social care where needed
- Collecting medicine or equipment the patient might need
- Proactively arranging transport for collection in the morning and ensuring the patient has a key to their home
- Bringing their clothes and shoes to leave hospital in
- Making the home comfortable for the patient’s return by putting the heating on and stocking the fridge
- Visiting the patient to make sure they have settled well when back at home.
The trust is also reminding carers of the support available from local organisations to help patients returning home from hospital, including Carer Support Wiltshire and the Royal Voluntary Service’s Home from Hospital Service which offers home visits for up to six weeks.
More information can be found in the 'Leaving Hospital' section of the trust's website - https://www.gwh.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/leaving-hospital/