The hopes (and fears) of social workers for hospital discharge processes, post-COVID

Featured article - 21 July 2020
By Julie Tyas, registered social worker, and Senior Business Application Consultant at Servelec

Julia Tyas

"It's always a struggle to make sure people are safely discharged from hospital"

As soon as the pandemic hit, the Assessment Discharge and Withdrawal (ADW) process, which facilitates the smooth transfer of a person from healthcare into social care, was changed - and a ‘discharge to assess’ model was put in its place.

Following these new requirements, trusts can discharge patients deemed ‘clinically fit’ within two hours, meaning that local authorities often struggle to find appropriate alternative care for those in need. Our customers have told us this was particularly an issue at the height of the pandemic.

An existing struggle

Having previously worked as a hospital social worker I know from first-hand experience that it has always been a struggle to make sure people are safely discharged, especially given all of the pressures that both hospitals and social care departments are under.

Getting the process wrong is often self-defeating. If you don’t safely discharge someone, there’s a higher chance of them being readmitted in a very short space of time. However, hospital beds are also in short supply, and people need to be moved through the system in a timely fashion.

Making progress with tech

In recent months, we’ve seen local authorities working harder than ever before to continue to serve citizens, protect key workers, and provide support to the most vulnerable among us. It’s been incredibly encouraging to see social workers adopting technology that can help keep those at risk connected to care professionals who can help.

The drive to join up care and improve services means that health and social care providers and their partners must all work together. Integrated solutions can reduce delays in the transfer of care, and efficient information flow in healthcare and social care improves patient wellbeing and reduces the costs associated with delayed discharge. Better information transfer reduces the possibility of delays in the transfer of care between hospitals and local authorities. Put simply, these systems help to put the right information in the hands of the right professionals, at the right time.

I hope that local authorities won’t give up easily on the ADW process as it undoubtedly helps to facilitate safe discharges from hospital. A serious debate about this issue, and experiences so far during the pandemic, need to be considered before any radical, long-term changes are made.

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