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An online tool for training nurses and other health and social care staff on how to best reduce hospital delays has been launched by the NHS in England.
It represents part of efforts to fulfil a pledge made in the NHS Long Term Plan to reduce levels of delayed discharge, which have remained stubbornly high.
“We want to ensure that all patients benefit from the shortest possible stay on a ward”
NHS England and Health Education England themselves highlighted that nearly 350,000 patients currently spent over three weeks in acute hospitals each year.
They also noted that many were frail, older people and that “staying too long can leave them vulnerable to infections or deconditioning”.
For example, they cited research suggesting that more than one in three 70-year-olds experienced muscle ageing during a prolonged stay in hospital, rising to two thirds of those aged over 90.
The new tool provides resources intended to help staff to take “prompt practical actions” and use “every opportunity” to ensure our patients are cared for in the best place for them.
It will cover the use of new technology, effective early discharge planning and caring for people at home, said those behind the launch.
They noted that another “added benefit” for staff was that completing the online course could be used as evidence of continued professional development and ongoing learning.
As well as the new tool, a wider campaign is running called Where Best Next? – which aims to see around 140,000 people every year spared a hospital stay of three weeks or more.
It sees NHS nurses, doctors and other staff being encouraged to ask themselves “Why not home? Why not today?” when planning care for patients recovering from an operation or illness.
Hilary Garratt, deputy chief nursing officer for England, said: “We want to ensure that all patients benefit from the shortest possible stay on a ward, getting home as soon as they are fit to leave with the support they need.
“Not only is that better for them, reducing the risk of infection or loss of mobility for older people in particular, but it also means that more beds are available for others who need care too, easing pressure on A&E and other parts of the system.
“This new ActNow resource will help nursing and care teams in the vital role they play throughout a patient’s journey, and are ideal to include as part of team training or for professional development plans for nurses at every level, including our non-registered colleagues,” she added.
Nurse academic Professor Brian Dolan, one of the authors of the tool, said: “The level of support from NHS England to value patients’ time by enabling practical, down to earth resources like to this to be made available is fantastic.
“It’s very much about enabling and giving permission to less senior nursing, therapy and care staff to make a difference to people and apply the principles outlined in the resource,” he told Nursing Times.