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How the social housing sector can assist the NHS

06 Nov 2017

The National Housing Federation has released a report detailing how pilot schemes run by housing providers can relieve pressures on the NHS.

The report demonstrates how housing services can successfully reduce delays in discharging people from hospital and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions. 

The number of delayed days between a patient being medically fit to be discharged from hospital and actually being discharged increased by 45.3% in 2016/17 compared to the previous year. This was attributed to people who had to remain in hospital while waiting for a care package to be put in place in their home.

By preventing unnecessary hospital admissions, reducing the length of hospital stays and reducing or avoiding delayed transfers of care, these pilot schemes both reduce demand and save money for the NHS.

Central features of the schemes include:

  • A ‘step down service’ that provides a temporary home for people coming out of hospital who cannot return to their own home immediately. This allows patients to access the support they need to prepare for independent living again.
  • Enabling timely and appropriate transfers out of hospital and back to the patient’s own home or to other suitable accommodation.
  • Providing a new home for people whose existing home or lack of housing mean that they have nowhere suitable to be discharged to.
  • Keeping people well at home who would otherwise be at risk of being admitted or readmitted to hospital.

Case studies cited, such as Curo Group and One Housing Group, demonstrate how ‘step-down services’ have resulted in the reduction in the number of delayed transfers, notable financial savings and a reduction in the size of care packages needed when patients finally return home. Other benefits meant that there was an increase in local authority adult social care departments identifying potentially vulnerable adults.

The report advocates a strong case for increasing the scale and scope of the housing offer, and reflects that within the social housing sector there are high levels of support for doing this. It concludes that housing providers are ideally placed to scale-up and deliver these services and some large players in the industry are already developing joined-up plans to extend and increase the services they offer to help people out of hospital. The four key components being developed are:

  1. An increase in the number of housing step down units or beds nationally which can facilitate efficient discharge from hospital.
  2. More housing staff seconded to discharge teams locally to coordinate and speed up transfers of care.
  3. Care packages to help prevent people from needing to go into hospital in the first place and to reduce readmissions.
  4. A commitment to facilitating robust evaluation of this solution.

The report would seem to chime with the current trend of cost-saving initiatives in the delivery of local and central government services, and no doubt social housing providers are keen to assist and develop new areas of housing services. However, as with any report, we will have to watch this space to see if those in government take heed of the suggestions and willingness of those who could deliver the projects.

For more information, please contact Neil Farrow see below for contact details.

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