'Super stranded' patients cause further strain on Teesside hospital trust resources

A Teesside hospital trust has described a rise in so-called ‘super stranded’ patients, adding to the pressure on beds.

In February, 97% of beds were occupied at the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust. By March the occupancy rate had fallen to 90.77%, although last month it increased again to 93.6%.

The trust's managing director Neil Atkinson said in a report to the trust board that there had been an increase in patients in the super stranded category and ‘resilience’ beds previously had to be relied upon for a period. The super stranded definition refers to patients who have been waiting to be discharged for more than 21 days and who require complex care packages along with suitable accommodation before they can be transferred into home or community settings.

Papers for the board stated: “The trust continues to see an increase in the number of patients who require support with issues surrounding homelessness on discharge. This patient group can require input from many different services.”

The trust said earlier in the year there had been a reduction in the number of available intermediate care beds commissioned in the area, which meant more “spot purchase placements” were required. Local authorities can block book beds for patients discharged from hospital who require continued social care should it be necessary.

The position with beds had improved since, although it highlighted occupancy levels in care homes as remaining high, limiting capacity for discharges. Work was also “ongoing within localities to maintain home first principles”, meaning where possible people are cared for and allowed to live in their own homes with appropriate support.

The North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust runs the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton and the University Hospital of Hartlepool and serves about 400,000 people. In February last year a board of directors meeting at its neighbour, the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was told that challenges around social care meant that on average there were about 90 people taking up beds who could not be discharged because of a lack of capacity.

This was the equivalent of three wards full of patients with work said to be taking place with local authority partners in a bid to address the problem and support people home and into the community much quicker.

On Thursday the BBC reported how an increasing number of hospital trusts elsewhere in the country were caring for patients in corridors due to a lack of bed space, albeit in a planned and risk-assessed manner, and also in a bid to cut ambulance waits outside A&Es. NHS England told the BBC that trusts used a variety of models and measures to improve patient flow.

The Department of Health and Social Care said 5,000 extra permanent hospital beds had been created and more than 10,000 "hospital at home beds", while £1.6bn worth of funding had been provided to support the NHS and local authorities to "ensure timely and effective discharge".