About 150 care home beds have been booked by the NHS in Nottinghamshire to help ease pressure in hospitals and ensure patients are discharged more quickly.
NHS bosses are also working with both the city and county councils to pay for extra bed space elsewhere in the city and county “dependent on patient need and demand”.
The idea is part of a winter plan being put forward by healthcare leaders in the county as the NHS plans for what one hospital trust predicts will be a “hugely challenging” period.
The paid bed space will be used as a tool to “support the flow” of patients who have been delayed from their discharge because there’s a delay in organising care support to look after them in their own homes.
The Integrated Care Board (ICB), which controls and monitors all healthcare in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, has booked 150 beds across several care homes so patients can be safely moved off wards.
This will be controlled by staff inside the care homes and NHS bosses say they are looking for even more available beds to ease the burden in hospitals during the growing winter pressure.
Buying up care home bed space has been done before by the NHS, but this year is part of a wider strategy being put together to tackle a winter many medics expect will see even greater pressures than usual.
Amanda Sullivan, chief executive of NHS Nottingham and Nottinghamshire,said: “We have a robust winter plan in place to help alleviate pressures across the system.
“As part of these plans, we are using care home beds to support the flow of patients delayed in hospital who are awaiting a package of care being set up in their own home.
“We have booked approximately 150 beds across several different care homes for the winter period, and we also work closely with local authority partners to purchase individual beds dependent on patient need and demand.
“The winter plan for the system looks at a range of both short and long-term solutions.
“We know it is going to be a tough winter and we are doing all we can across the system with our health and social care partners to put measures in place to help mitigate some of the struggles we know are happening.
“We will do our very best to support both our colleagues and our patients this winter. The delivery of high quality and safe local health and care services remains one of our top priorities.”
The NHS added all patients being moved into care homes from hospitals will be tested for Covid-19 prior to their discharge.
If a patient tests positive, the patient will either remain in hospital until they are negative, or the NHS will work with care providers to implement isolation and infection control measures.
Other measures in the winter plan include a new acute mental health inpatient unit to target “crisis support” and opening up extra beds across the network’s five largest hospitals.
The NHS also plans to create three new discharge ‘hubs’ to increase the number of people able to leave hospitals and reduce pressure and existing burdens on hospital staff.
Technology could also be used to treat patients in their own homes – described by the NHS as “virtual wards” – while physical wards will be targeted with deep cleaning programmes to “reduce healthcare-associated infections”.
Hospitals have reported an increase in the number of both Covid and influenza cases in recent weeks, as well as an emergence of other respiratory diseases.
Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust (SFH), which runs King’s Mill, Newark and Mansfield Community Hospitals, confirmed last week that rising respiratory infections are already putting a strain on services.
Paul Robinson, the trust’s chief executive, said during a board of directors meeting last week: “We have experienced increases in Covid numbers in patients; indeed, we’ve now got influenza in the hospitals alongside other respiratory diseases.
“It remains really, really challenging. Thank you to all our colleagues working tirelessly to care for our patients.”
The wider NHS winter plan will be presented to Nottinghamshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee next week (November 15).