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Hospitals should be reserved for critical health problems, say NHS bosses

By Vivienne Russell | 7 March 2013

In-patient hospital treatment should be limited to people with life-threatening conditions or who need complex surgery, the NHS Confederation has recommended.

Transforming local care, a report published today, said such a shift should go hand in hand with the development of services based in the community or offered in people’s homes. It would help make the NHS more efficient as well as improving patient experiences and clinical outcomes.

Jo Webber, interim director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said it was time to start thinking differently.

She said: ‘For too long, the default setting when we think about health care or support is to think of a hospital. But in reality, acute hospitals – whether major teaching sites or local district generals – are rarely the best place for someone who needs ongoing health or treatment. There are already groundbreaking services in place in some parts of the country, which are transforming patient experience and quality of care, as well as contributing to making the NHS more efficient overall.’

Among the report’s specific recommendations is the development of a 24-hour access point for community services for urgent cases thereby reducing emergency hospital admissions. Community-based rehabilitation programmes should also be developed to reduce the number of hospital re-admissions, while greater use of telehealth systems could also be used to allow clinicians to remotely monitor patients’ vital signs.

Health and social care funding should also be reshaped to support the transfer of care into community settings, the confederation said. Payment systems should be introduced to reward preventive, early intervention and integrated working.

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