To free up hospital beds, here’s some money to walk the dog…

3 March 2022 By Paul Martin

Overcrowded hospitals in England have started offering large cash rewards to families — if they can take their loved ones home.

Wards are filling up so heavily because of the backlog of treatments and because of Covid. Yet some beds are occupied by people who don’t need to be there . Because they are not being taken home, many are staying on in hospital long after they’ve recovered.

Hospitals in the region of Bristol, a city on England’s west coast, continue to feel the pressure with both of its hospital trusts reporting bed occupancy rates of above 95% in the week up to February 20 2022.

The one-off payment could be used by families to help with shopping, meal preparation, transport and even dog walking, says Healthier Together, the group behind the grant scheme..

It is available for individuals, family members, friends and voluntary advocates.

Families could receive up to £1200.

The scheme, called Discharge Support Grant, started in February, and is due to run until the end of March.

Peter Brindle, medical director at NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, said : “We’re launching this pilot as the local health and care system remains in its highest state of alert.

“We need to do everything we can to ensure that hospital beds are available to those that need hospital care the most.

“While the grant will not enable regulated care for our more vulnerable people, it will provide extra resources to a large proportion of people who are medically well and ready to leave hospital, but who might just need short-term help so they can get back on their feet.”

At North Bristol NHS Trust, the occupancy rate for adult general and acute beds was 97.7% over the week, while at University Hospitals of Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust it was 95.9%.

Separate figures also show that on February 20, 145 patients aged over 18, excluding paediatrics and maternity, no longer fitted the criteria to remain under care at Southmead Hospital.

And at University Hospitals of Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, 116 were in the same category on February 20.

In January, UHBWT chief executive Robert Woolley said the trust was having problems discharging patients into social care or back into their homes because of ‘workforce constraints on all partners in the health and care system’.

He added: “That is backing up then in terms of our access to our beds in hospital.”

In an attempt to ease the strain, the NHS has taken some actions including the opening of a makeshift ‘care facility’ at The Bristol Hotel in Bristol city centre, Bristolworld reports.

The facility is for up to 30 people who are moved from hospitals to free up beds