A report has shown the issue of bed blocking in the NHS is being solved via the use of remote monitoring technology. The widespread roll-out of mobile and digital health technology could have already saved the NHS over £1bn in the last five years by enabling patients to leave hospital sooner, according to a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
The 'Remote Health Management: Reducing Bed Blocking in the NHS' report calls for the Department of Health to create a standardised Remote Health Management network by 2020. This secure digital network would provide acute and social care providers with easy access to patient data and remote monitoring, and allow for the faster discharge of patients from hospital.
Caring for patients at a residential care home or at home is at least 70% cheaper than care in hospital and also sees a reduced risk of contracting potentially lethal hospital acquired infections. Dr Helen Meese, Head of Healthcare at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “Unnecessary delays to patients being discharged from hospital are a problem for health workers, taxpayers and patients alike. They lead to critical NHS resources being wasted and, often, the distress of patients keen to return home.
“Technology to monitor patients remotely is a key way they could be safely discharged from hospital earlier. Currently trials of this technology in the NHS have been sorely lacking.
“Government needs to urgently introduce a secure standardised Remote Health Management network to connect hospitals with social care providers to enable people to live more independent lives and free up much needed NHS hospital beds. Government should also look to ring-fence some of the £20-30m from the Accelerated Access Review to develop these technologies further to ensure they achieve their full potential.”
The National Audit Office estimated that delayed transfer or ‘bed blocking’ costs the NHS £820m in 2015, while September 2016 saw one of the highest recorded monthly delays in patient transfers since records began.
The institution’s report makes four key recommendations: