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Support urgently required for hospital discharges

Picture of beds with text "Are you ready for discharge?"

Patients and their families are being urged to support timely discharge from hospitals as our health service deals with continuing escalating pressures from Covid-19 on top of the normal expected winter pressures over the Christmas and New Year period.

The essential co-operation of patients and their families/carers on discharge will help free up beds during this extremely challenging time.

To help us free up essential beds, required for very sick patients, Health and Social Care (HSC) is sending out an urgent request to patients and families;

Our Health and Care Services remain under serious pressure. Many of our hospitals are working beyond capacity at present with many very ill patients waiting for hospital beds.

Referring to the pressures in our hospitals, the Health Minister Robin Swann commented:

“Hospital beds are for those who require treatment that can only be delivered in an acute setting. At this time, hospital beds are an extremely precious resource that must be kept available for those who need them.

“When hospital treatment is complete, patients should move immediately to a more appropriate environment. In many cases this will be their own home, supported by family and friends until the full package of community care required is available to them. In other cases, this will be to a care home. At times, it is likely that it will not be possible to place a patient in their first choice of care home immediately and an interim placement may be required until the first choice becomes available.

“This is also in patients’ best interests. While our hospital staff will do everything possible to maintain strict infection prevention and control measures, there is inevitably an increased risk of infection if remaining in hospital any longer than necessary.

“As a health service, and as a community, we all have to take responsibility for this. I am asking the public to put faith in the decisions of our frontline, highly trained staff, and to help us to ensure that those who really need acute treatment can receive it.”

Also encouraging families and carers to help with timely discharges, Brendan Whittle, Assistant Director of Social Care and Children with the Health and Social Care Board said:

“Everyone is aware that HSC is currently under huge strain with all the ongoing daily media reports.  We continue to need your support.

“To help us, we are asking that patients do not remain in hospital any longer than necessary, we need to release the bed due to the expected surge over the Christmas and New Year period. We also need families to provide transport to transfer your loved ones from the hospital in a timely manner when required.

“We are in very challenging times and the days and weeks ahead project even further burdens on our HSC, so we are asking you to help us so we can help others who are very ill and need a hospital bed.

The Department of Health has provided HSC Trusts with additional funding and guidance for new people receiving direct payments to help facilitate their discharge from hospital, and they will work closely with families to ensure the safe transfer for patients and ongoing community care is provided.