• NHS to target 25 per cent cut in number of patients in hospital over three weeks
  • System leaders estimate 4,000 beds can be freed up by hitting this ambition
  • Stevens and Dalton to set out plans at NHS Confed conference in Manchester

The NHS must cut the number of patients spending more than three weeks in hospital by a quarter to free up 4,000 beds ahead of the winter, system leaders will say today.

NHS England and NHS Improvement chiefs Simon Stevens and Ian Dalton are to set out the plans at the NHS Confederation annual conference in Manchester.

The plans focus on cutting the length of stay of so-called “super stranded” long-stay patients, those in for more than three weeks, to free up 4,000 beds, as exclusively revealed by HSJ in April.

A joint statement said the plans also involve a previously trailed push on improving weekend discharge rates and come with system leaders finalising the full 2018-19 winter plan.

The statement said: ”The NHS, working with local authorities, aims to reduce the number of long-staying patients by around a quarter, freeing up more than 4,000 beds in time for the winter surge.

“Nearly 350,000 patients spend more than three weeks in a hospital each year. That is around a fifth of beds, or the equivalent of 36 hospitals. Some patients need to be there for medical reasons but many do not.”

It highlighted the deterioration in patients, particularly frail elderly, and dementia sufferers, who have spent more than ten days in hospital.

It also set out the benefits of targeting long stayers, as previously analysed in our Performance Watch expert briefing last month.

The statement continued: “To meet the ambition NHS trusts will be expected to close the gap between the number of patients discharged during the week and those sent home at the weekend and make greater use of alternatives to admission such as emergency day cases or therapy services.

“Hospital stays above the best practice guidelines will be treated as a safety issue that urgently needs addressing with the time patients have spent on wards closely monitored through the Patient Administration System.”

NHS England also said that trusts would be supported by extended GP access and a focus on avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions including more support for care home staff to prevent residents being admitted.

There will also be regional emergency care intensive support teams charged with helping to deliver the 25 per cent ambition, the statement said.