latest health care news

17.03.20

Up to 30,000 beds to be freed up as non-urgent operations postponed

All non-urgent operations in England are set to be postponed from April 15, 2020 in an effort to free up 30,000 beds to help tackle the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, according to NHS England.

The emergency policy will be in place for at least three months.

In a letter to NHS bosses from NHS England, hospitals were told to cancel all non-urgent surgeries and were given discretion to begin winding down activity immediately to help train staff and begin work setting up makeshift intensive care wards.

Any cancer operations and patients needing emergency treatment will not be affected by the cancellations.

In the letter from NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens said: “The operational aim is to expand critical care capacity to the maximum; free up 30,000 (or more) of the English NHS’s 100,000 general and acute beds.

“Assume that you will need to postpone all non-urgent elective operations from 15 April at the latest, for a period of at least three months.

“However, you also have full local discretion to wind down elective activity over the next 30 days as you see best, so as to free up staff for refresher training, beds for Covid-19 patients, and theatres/recovery facilities for adaptation work.”

Hospitals have been instructed to carry out as much elective surgery, such as hip operations and knee replacements, as possible and to use private sector hospitals where possible, which could free up between 12,000 and 15,000 beds across England.

The NHS England Chief Executive also said patients who did not need to be in hospital should be discharged as quickly as possible to free up additional capacity in our hospitals.

“Community health providers must take immediate full responsibility for urgent discharge of all eligible patients identified by acute providers on a discharge list. For those needing social care, emergency legislation before Parliament this week will ensure that eligibility assessments do not delay discharge.

“This could potentially free up to 15,000 acute beds currently occupied by patients awaiting discharge or with lengths of stay over 21 days.”

Sir Simon Stevens also revealed the NHS was currently block buying beds in private sector hospitals which will be completed within two weeks and be available for use by the NHS. In addition, social care companies have been asked to free up community beds within the next two weeks.

These steps are expected to release around 10,000 beds to be free for use if necessary as the country continues to tackle the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

As well as freeing up hospital bed capacity, NHS England also stressed in the letter the importance of NHS staff getting the training needed to care for patients who needed respiratory support.

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