NHS Crisis: How will Steve Barclay’s block-book beds initiative work?

Health Secretary Steve Barclay will implement a new block-book hospital bed scheme in the hopes of easing the NHS crisis   (PA Wire)
Health Secretary Steve Barclay will implement a new block-book hospital bed scheme in the hopes of easing the NHS crisis (PA Wire)

Pressures on the NHS have become all too familiar in recent years.

As such, health secretary Steve Barclay has come up with a new initiative that may help to ease the burden on the current NHS crisis.

Barclay recently outlined the Government’s plans to help free up hospital beds and will block-book beds in residential homes.

But what does that entail and how will it help?

Why is the NHS in crisis?

Most NHS hospitals across the UK are overpopulated, with almost every bed in the emergency department being occupied.

The cause for much of this overflow has been blamed on high levels of flu and rising Covid cases, but issues such as patient release and the ongoing NHS strikes have also taken their toll.

About 13,000 people in English hospitals are well enough to be discharged but still need some care before they can return to their own homes.

The sheer number of people in these hospitals has created major blockage issues, including blocking in hospitals, on the way to the hospital and, most frustrating for staff and patients, blockages for getting treated or sending recovered patients home, or into the community.

The ambulance strike taking place on Wednesday, January 11, was agreed upon after no “tangible concessions” had been made regarding pay disputes and, as such, most of the UK faces another day of significantly limited ambulance and paramedic staff.

The current NHS hospital system has been called both broken and dysfunctional despite promises from successive UK prime ministers to fix it.

How will Steve Barclay’s block-book beds initiative work?

To help ease this blocked system and increase capacity in A&E, Barclay has stated the Government will block-book thousands of care home beds in order to help “free up” hospital capacity.

Admitting to MPs that the number of people in hospital with flu “this time last year was 50”, but this year, “it was over 5,100” the need for change is evident.

These “modular units” are said to expand the space available and will support to the NHS.

Mr Barclay said the move will help to reduce ambulance delays and prevent delayed discharge cases.

He also admitted the need to make the changes as the “experience” for some patients and staff has been “unacceptable” in recent weeks.

The new £200m scheme will mean up to 2,500 people can be released from hospitals when they are medically fit to be discharged, freeing up some much-needed space.

Alongside the new hospital bed scheme, Barclay is looking into three main categories in a bid to help with the NHS crisis including:

  • Immediate action taking place to ease pressures now.

  • Having a wider response for better resilience during the summer and autumn.

  • As much prevention as possible such as treating more conditions away from hospitals and in the community.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon announced recently a similar plan which will be implemented across Scotland.

However, shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has called the new scheme merely “sticking plasters” over the current crisis, adding that more needs to be done in terms of staffing, better pay, more training, and more investment so people are able to have access to their GPs.

There are also concerns that moving patients into care homes will spread illness and even cause fatalities, after untested patients were released into care homes during the pandemic.