NHS professionals say real-time visibility of beds is a priority

Following Lord Carter’s report, the First NHS Conference for Building Sustainable Healthcare explores how NHS can innovate to overcome key challenges

Senior NHS professionals discussed operational challenges and barriers to change facing the health service at the First NHS Conference for Building Sustainable Healthcare.

Attended by 68 health service professionals, and hosted by The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, the agenda covered best practices on how real-time operational data is helping hospitals to diagnose patient flow blockages and improve operations surrounding patient flow.

Robin Davis, deputy director of NHS Elect, said: “I have seen many improvement projects flounder due to difficulties in collecting reliable data to measure progress. Real-time data allows ward managers to focus on delivering excellent care and getting patients discharged.”

The conference followed the recent release of Lord Carter's independent report on Operational Productivity and Performance in English NHS Hospitals: Unwarranted Variations, indicating that delays in discharging patients from beds could be costing the NHS £900m pounds a year. The report found vast inefficiencies across the NHS, with particular focus on staff productivity, poor patient flow and lost bed capacity due to bed-blocking.

In order to focus efforts, the NHS needs to have the appropriate systems in place to provide the necessary data and information to allow prioritisation

Conference host, The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, discussed the opportunities afforded by technology to enable operational efficiencies as its SafeHands programme features in the Carter Report. The trust uses an operational platform from TeleTracking Technologies to track patients, assets and staff in real-time, as well as co-ordinate placement of patients through a centralised patient placement and coordination centre, enabling timely care across the entire organisation.

Staffing, patient flow, technology innovations, operational challenges and barriers to change were widely discussed by conference delegates and speakers. Key participants included David Loughton CBE, chief executive of The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust; The Carilion Clinic; The Christie NHS Foundation Trust; and the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network.

The group agreed that cultural change is difficult and requires the right tools to deliver vital changes in culture to drive improved patient care and asset management.

“The level of real-time information offered by TeleTracking is incredible” said Davis.

“The TeleTracking system clearly gives NHS leaders an exciting opportunity to start trying to solve patient flow issues as opposed to spending hours trying to collect data and information to diagnose where the patient flow blockages are. I can see how the hours spent in regular operational bed meetings discussing free beds and expected discharges will be consigned to history. The information available from the TeleTracking system will also fast track through the challenge of collecting robust and reliable data for quality improvement work."

Lucy Chatwin, business manager at West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN), added: "In order to focus efforts, the NHS needs to have the appropriate systems in place to provide the necessary data and information to allow prioritisation. The WMAHSN is licensed by NHS England to create the environment to identify and spread innovation at pace and scale, fostering opportunities for industry to work effectively with the NHS and spreading best practice to increase productivity and reduce variation, thereby improving patient outcomes.

We are keen to explore the value we can bring to other trusts across the UK who have yet to address patient access and flow

“TeleTracking has demonstrated how it is able to provide this information in order to identify and manage variation within the hospital environment, and is a great asset to any organisation making changes in order to demonstrate efficiency and safety outcomes."

And Dr Julia Fishman, vice president of clinical operations at TeleTracking, said: “To see so many senior people coming together to discuss this issue is a positive development. We are keen to explore the value we can bring to other trusts across the UK who have yet to address patient access and flow.”

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