Integrating social and health care services for older people could help free up NHS hospital beds, according to a report by a healthcare think tank.
A paper published by the King’s Fund says that there is significant regional variation in the use of hospital beds by patients over 65 who are admitted as an emergency.
It said that areas which have well-developed, integrated services for older people have lower rates of bed use, and that if all primary care trusts (PCTs) achieved the same rates as those with the lowest use, 5,700 fewer beds would be needed across England.
The report noted that the links between bed use and access to community services such as GPs, community nursing and social care are not clear cut.
But it said that PCTs with the highest bed use tended to have excessive lengths of stay for patients for whom hospital was a transition between home and supported living.
The paper concluded that PCTs with the highest bed use should develop strategies across the care system as a whole.
It said: “Organisations need to prioritise whole systems approaches if they are to deliver a real shift from hospital to community-based care.”
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