Thursday 14 November 2019

Is this the end of trolley gridlock?

The NHSS was meant to be reviewed in 2012
The NHSS was meant to be reviewed in 2012
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

will it work? The launch of yet another blueprint to tackle trolley gridlock is inevitably being met with a strong degree of caution.

There is a whole library full of reports, not to mention the hugely expensive Special Delivery Unit and overseas gurus which have cost us millions of euro.

But this crisis plan may have a better chance of some success than the rest. The funding of €74m is definitely substantial and it will be exclusively used to provide long-term and short-stay beds for the hundreds of patients who need discharge.

The bed-blocking has choked a lot of the normal flow of hospitals since last autumn. It has been responsible for a spike in surgical waiting lists and intolerable levels of emergency department overcrowding. In some hospitals, they account for one in four occupied beds.

The emergency department taskforce report said yesterday that even at 5pc-10pc there are problems for hospital which are 100pc full.

Measures such as putting patients on trolleys in wards, which should be reserved for when there is a surge, have become an everyday event in many hospitals.

The freeing-up of even a portion of these beds, as many elderly patients in particular are transferred to safer and more appropriate step-down care, will have an immediate benefit.

But so many other parts of the hospital will have to take the medicine if dramatic improvements are to be achieved. Central to the new plan will be the earlier discharge of patients. This will put more pressure on consultants not just to make decisions which they feel may be premature but which will also require a greater presence throughout the entire week.

The plan has set different timelines for various measures, some of which are immediate, with others having a target of the last quarter of the year, such as more direct access by GPs to scans and X-rays for their patients.

There are obvious hurdles to overcome including the difficulties in recruitment of senior doctors and nurses.

The other problem which previous plans have encountered is that there was an initial burst of progress but difficulty in sustaining it.

But the general election in 2016 was mentioned at the launch, and that is a powerful incentive for the Government to deliver some reprieve.

Irish Independent

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