Hospitals are under pressure to free up acute beds
With the National Health Service facing the challenge of increased demand and tighter budgetary constraints, hospitals are understandably under pressure to discharge patients from acute services as soon as they are medically able to do so.
Consequently, demand for Intermediate Care Services is growing
With an ever increasing elderly population, who may have higher support needs following a period of ill health, a hospital stay can be lengthened by the need for assessment and implementation of long term care and support in the community. This results in a need for effective communication between health and social care services and places an increased demand on short-term Intermediate Care services.
Intermediate Care – benefits and challenges
Intermediate Care is provided to people, usually the elderly, after they have left hospital or when they are at risk of being hospitalised. It is a programme of care provided free of charge for up to six weeks, to assist a person to maintain or regain the ability to live independently.
The potential of Intermediate Care to reduce pressure on hospitals is under-utilised and often those who may benefit are totally unaware of this valuable service.
It is not unusual for patients to be sent home from hospital with little to no support in place, lacking in confidence and unable to return to their previous quality of life.
Those fortunate enough to be provided with short-term care often find that it revolves around basic activities of daily living, such as washing, dressing and preparing meals. Rarely do we find that people are supported in resuming hobbies or social activities that they previously enjoyed, which can be central to their perception of independence.
In addition, we find that services are being withdrawn before the service user feels confident that they have regained as much independence as they would like.
Whilst Intermediate Care is a time limited service, under financial strain, surely early withdrawal, coupled with the failure to consider the holistic needs of the individual, will ultimately result in poor patient outcomes and increased readmission rates?
Where Intermediate Care Services are maximised, everyone benefits
Research shows that, in cases where Intermediate Care services are being effectively applied, people's outcomes and levels of satisfaction are improved. Where patients, their families and carers are given the opportunity to be involved in discharge planning, helping establish which types of care will be of greatest value, these services can reduce pressure on hospitals and improve rehabilitation potential, helping people remain as independent as possible, in their own homes, for longer.