Lack of community services leaves patients stranded in hospital
A gap in community services means patients who could be cared for at home are stranded in hospital for days, it was said yesterday.
A comparative analysis of countries in Europe by the Royal College of Nursing’s (RCN) shows that the UK has the longest average length of hospital stay.
“Moving patient care out of acute hospitals and into the community has been a UK-wide priority for over a decade; however despite national commitments made to encourage this shift, there is limited evidence to show a tangible investment in the community,” says the report.
‘Moving Care to the community: an international perspective,’ which analysed sector specific reforms in Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, called for a better integration of care between different parts of the state system, whether central, regional or local.
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the RCN said: “Care closer to home is not only what patients want, it is what UK health services need to do to avoid costly, lengthy and unnecessary hospital stays.”
But the report said many countries are struggling to provide the increased volume and range of services because they are not training enough nurses with specialist skills in the community.
Dr Carter said: “The number of district nurses [in the UK] has fallen by an astonishing 42 per cent over the last decade. Only five district nurses were trained in London last year. This means that district nurses simply won’t be able to keep on giving the increasingly complex care required to meet the rise in demand.”
“Sadly, if community services are not adequately resourced, many older people may face being admitted or readmitted to hospital as an emergency,” he added.
The report found there was a strong political push in the UK to implement community absed services, yet initiatives had been slow, fragmented and lacked coordination and strategic planning.
“Despite numerous examples of nurses delivering cost-effective care in the community, the health and social care sectors in the four UK countries are not investing in the community nursing workforce,” the report said.
The study of community care concluded that a whole systems approach was needed to address key issues like restructuring and reinvesting in the health care system and the nursing workforce.
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