England’s top nurse launches new winter support package to help patients stay active and leave hospital

The Chief Nursing Officer for England has today issued a new winter framework that will help nursing staff to ensure patients do not spend any time longer than they need to in hospital, particularly over the busy winter period.

The framework has a particular emphasis on maximising the use of care homes across Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STP), providing support to those that may be at risk of closure, and making best use of available beds so patients do not have to stay in hospital longer than they need to.  It also describes therapy-led units where the focus is on reablement and rehabilitation with a reduced reliance on medical and registered nursing staff, thus making safer therapeutic environments for medically fit for discharge patients in hospitals.

She highlights the importance of leadership in giving patients ‘the most precious gift, the gift of time’ as leaders can ensure environments are created which focus on safe, effective and prompt discharge and where people can move around in their own clothes.

Figures suggest for those over 80 years old, a week spent in bed can equate to 10 years muscle ageing, a loss of 1.5kg of muscle mass and a 20% reduction in aerobic capacity. It can also lead to a five-fold increase in the risk of requiring institutional care.

As well as the debilitating impact caused by staying in bed for longer than necessary can have on health, it also adds to pressures on the NHS. In July 2017, in the North of England alone, if every patient was discharged just one day earlier it would have released 2,707 bed days for other people, saving the NHS £5.6million.

Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “The last few months have been exceptionally busy in the NHS and I want to acknowledge all the hard work that has gone into planning for the increasing challenges of winter. I would also like to thank staff for their continued work to deal with these challenges.

“Ensuring we build resilience in ourselves, our teams, in and across organisations is essential so we manage the months ahead with maximum certainty and confidence in our ability to provide safe care.”

“While our time is busy and important, our patients’ time is sacred – let’s make giving back time by enabling our patients to return to the place they call home our challenge. It’s one where every member of our clinical teams and every member of staff can have an impact and make a difference.”

“I ask all nurse leaders to look at how they can maximise patient time and support therapeutic environments.”

This year a number of measurements are in place locally and nationally to predict surges in demand, stress, and response of the health system.

In partnership with NHS Improvement, NHS England will be working within a winter operating infrastructure; which has a local, regional and national presence, to ensure we coordinate intelligence and action to maximise support when needed.