HEALTH bosses say they “hang their heads in shame” at the county’s “unacceptable” bed-blocking figures but have launched a £10m bid to tackle the problem.
The county regained its place as the worst in England for bed-blocking in July, with 148 people experiencing delayed transfers – a rise from 128 in June.
Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) has launched a bid for £10m of NHS England cash to help tackle winter pressures, including bed-blocking, later this year.
Although it was revealed at a public meeting yesterday, OCCG last night refused to reveal any more details about the bid or how the money will be spent.
Oxfordshire MPs said sorting out bed-blocking should be a top priority and OCCG had not made real progress to date.
Councillor Susanna Pressel, at yesterday’s joint health overview and scrutiny committee, said: “We are once again the worst local authority in the whole country and you should be hanging your heads in shame.”
Dr Mary Keenan, OCCG medical director, replied: “We are all hanging our heads in shame.
“Hopefully the winter pressure money will accelerate our work and we should see the figures go down.
“But people have said that before and it has not happened so I don’t want to make any wild claims.”
Agenda documents for the meeting said the bid would be partly spent on “processes and systems” to tackle bed-blocking.
But, when asked for more details, the OCCG issued a one line statement which said: “Oxfordshire CCG has submitted a bid for extra winter pressures funding and await the outcome next week as to whether this has been successful.”
A spokesman refused to give any more details, adding: “That is all we are saying. The announcement is next week.”
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the county’s hospitals, has opened an extra 60 permanent beds at the John Radcliffe Hospital, staffed by about 60 nurses and support staff, for winter. The trust has 1,350 beds across four sites.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said sorting out the “massive” problem once and for all must be a top priority, but said initiatives so far had been a case of “two steps forward, two steps back”.
He said: “I am writing to NHS England in support of the OCCG bid for extra funding. That would certainly help with winter pressures, but only a properly implemented plan, binding on the county council as well as the NHS, will sort out the bed-blocking.”
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said: “Resources are only part of the story, bed-blocking can only be sustainably managed when the CCG, acute hospitals, community hospitals and social services are working effectively and efficiently together.”
Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry said: “For reasons that I have never understood, Oxfordshire has had a historically poor record on bed- blocking and there never has been an explanation as to why this is such a particular problem and issue for Oxfordshire.”
He welcomed the extra beds and early bid for winter cash, but said there was potential for more community hospital beds so that people did not take up acute hospital beds.
A LONG HISTORY
In the 36 months since the Department of Health began recording bed-blocking figures, Oxfordshire has been the worst in England on 19 occasions.
In July, 148 people were bed-blocked in the county, a rise from 128 in June and the worst figure for the month since records began in August 2010 – last July it was 115.
The county overtook Birmingham (131) and Hertfordshire (140), which it was behind, to regain its place as the worst of the 154 NHS hospital trusts.
Bed-blocking happens when a patient is medically fit to be moved on from hospital but is unable to do so because a health or social care placement is not available.
In April, OCCG, which commissions healthcare, and the county council, which runs adult social care, launched a ‘discharge to assess’ policy to tackle bed-blocking.
But two months later OCCG chief executive Dr Stephen Richards, who vowed to tackle bed-blocking in 2011, admitted the situation was still unacceptable.