Thirty-five per cent of hospital beds across Northamptonshire occupied by people 'who did not need them'

Northampton General Hospital
Northampton General Hospital

A review has found that a staggering 35 per cent of hospital beds across Northamptonshire were occupied by people that did not need them.

The figures show that 351 beds out of every 1,000 were occupied at any one time by people who did not require care in an acute setting – working out at the equivalent of 128,115 days more spent in hospital than patients needed to.

Kettering General Hospital

Kettering General Hospital

Astounded councillors were also told that this came to a cost of around £24.3m to Northamptonshire in hospital beds alone.

The eye-watering figures were revealed at Northamptonshire County Council’s adult, health and wellbeing scrutiny committee on Wednesday.

Councillor Chris Stanbra, a member of the committee, said: “I’m still in a bit of shock about this. To me those figures are scandalous.”

The Newton’s Review – which was commissioned by the Secretary of State – focused on beds at Northampton General Hospital and Kettering General Hospital, as well as Northampton Health Care Foundation Trust hospitals at Hazelbrook, Beechwood, Danetree and Corby, and Shaw HealthCare Specialist Care Centres at Turn Furlong and Spinneyfields.

The review found that 26 per cent of all cases reviewed could have avoided an admission in the first place, and only 48 per cent of people whose case was studied received an ‘ideal outcome’.

The biggest factors in not achieving an ideal outcome for patients was risk aversion, although a lack of capacity in the service and family disagreements were also heavy contributors.
Anna Earnshaw, executive director for adults, communities and wellbeing, told members of the scrutiny committee: “What Newton’s did was a very comprehensive review where they went in and had discussions with families, did case conferences and they also looked at what happened to people when they left and questioned whether it was the right outcome for that person.

“There was a bit of a gasp when we had health colleagues in the room and they saw the figures. It was a real eye-opener, and it’s very clear that we need to do something.”

For the 35 per cent of people unnecessarily occupying hospital beds, process delays were identified as the key reasons for their longer than needed stay. Twenty-six per cent were awaiting paperwork, while 17 per cent were awaiting a decision about discharge.

Notably, the review found that the delays did not relate to how busy the wards were.

A county council spokesman said: “The Newton’s work is part of a national (Delayed Transfer of Care) DToC programme sponsored by The Department of Health, NHS England, NHS Improvement, the Local Government Association, ADASS and The Better Care Fund for areas that were experiencing high levels of delays.

“It is expected that a national report on findings will be published but this will not contain the specific findings by area.

“There are no plans to publish the local reports in detail and detailed findings are being used to guide internal plans and change programmes.

“The Council is not in a position to publish anything other than the high-level findings – as shared at Scrutiny Committee – as the data and information contained relates not just to the Council services but wider health services and it does not have the right to share without their consent.”