Elderly care beds are earmarked for closure so medical care can be moved into the community, in a shake-up of the discharge system at the Luton & Dunstable Hospital.
The Better Together programme , which involves Luton Borough Council, the L&D and Luton CCG aims to prevent unnecessary stays in hospital and introduce a new way of caring for elderly people.
They are all “signed up to the idea” of closing at least 60 elderly care beds and moving medical expertise into the community, with the ward closure saving a potential £1 million a year.
A spokesman for the L&D said: “We know that hospitals can be the right place for acutely ill older people however we also know that inappropriate admissions and unnecessary long periods in hospital can be harmful.
“L&D consultants with specialist knowledge in elderly care are working in partnership with local GPs in Luton and Beds to ensure that elderly patients can be treated, when it is right to do so, in the patient’s own home or in a community setting.
“When it is necessary to be admitted to hospital the new coordinated approach will ensure the patient’s discharge from hospital is not delayed.”
The spokesman said it will reduce the number of avoidable deaths and enable quicker recovery for elderly patients.
In practice it will mean elderly care physicians based at the L&D will have a caseload outside the hospital building.
Working with patients outside of hospital will help the practitioners to identify those patients who need nursing and those who need social care.
This is described as a “seamless and holistic service” which will mean all the patient’s needs are considered, including health issues like diabetes or dementia and social needs like housing, income, and mobility.
Director of Age Concern Luton, Colette McKeaveney said: “Quite a lot of elderly people don’t want to be in hospital so if they can be cared for at home instead that is good. However the homes they are going back to must be suitable and we need the community care to be expert.
“There are a lot of very specialist skills in the hospital and at the moment there’s a big gap between the care you get in the community and the care you get in hospital.
“If that community care is improved, many elderly people will benefit from being at home instead as they can feel very anxious and frustrated staying in hospital.
“Most people will smile when they are told they can go home.
“However, we do need reassurance that those who need beds in hospital will be able to get a bed once these 60 or so have closed.”
The L&D could not say when the changes might take place but said they had been working on the premise “for many years”.
The scheme was discussed at the council’s Health and Social Care Review group meeting on Monday.