How working together can save money for the NHS each year and improve quality of life for patients

Featured article - 22 September 2016
By Michelle Turton, Housing Needs Manager Mansfield District Council

Head-shot of the author, Michelle Turton, Housing Needs Manager Mansfield District Council

The ASSIST early discharge scheme

Saving money, improving services and enhancing quality of life (all at the same time) seems an impossible challenge for the public sector. Here in Mansfield our health, social care and local authority services have pulled together in a critically acclaimed project to do exactly that. Set up as a trial at Kings Mill Hospital in Sutton in Ashfield, the ASSIST early discharge scheme sees council support officers working side by side with clinical staff and social care teams in hospital wards to get patients home safely and quickly.

Together, Mansfield District Council, Nottinghamshire County Council and the NHS has unblocked beds, given patients independence and on the whole saved nearly £1.4m. Whilst the National Audit Office report bed blocking through late hospital discharge has increased to 1.15m days, at a local level we have saved on average 4.5 bed days per patient and we’ve helped 1,127 patients between July 2015 and April 2016. Our success rate is verified in a recent report by Nottingham Trent University and the Mansfield and Ashfield Clinical Commissioning Group.

Now this project is not rocket science, it is common sense public sector provision and is based on a new way of shaping services and partnership working – with tangible results! Quite simply, social workers from the county council and ASSIST workers from Mansfield District Council work with hospital staff to identity patients who have housing issues that are preventing their discharge from hospital. ASSIST officers then find solutions to these problems. They arrange for adaptations to be made and also allocate temporary accommodation in specially adapted respite units funded by Nottinghamshire County Council. This means that patients leave hospital sooner, beds are freed up and hospital days are spared.

The study found clear evidence that the scheme improves the efficiency of hospital discharge. The annual cost of running the scheme is £233,520 and but the savings to the NHS amount to £1.371m annually. The cost of the scheme has so far been funded by the Mid Nottinghamshire CCG and additional in-kind contributions have been made by Mansfield District Council (staff hours and integrated processes) of around £106,500.

With costs savings such as this, it’s a great example of how authorities can work together to improve lives and our bottom line.

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