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Data corroborates nurse concerns on bed pressures

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Data from a sample of 20 NHS hospitals shows medical admissions in September and October 2009 were 5 per cent higher than the same two months in 2008 – corroborating nurses’ reports that pressure on beds are growing.

The data was exclusively analysed for Nursing Times by the NHS data specialists CHKS. Its head of market intelligence Paul Robinson said the rise in medical admissions would create pressure on beds.

Mr Robinson said data on the average length of patient stays in hospital also suggested “something was happening” to create a pressure to discharge patients sooner.

In October 2009 the average length of stay of patients in the sample was 8.04 days. But in 2008 and 2007, patients’ stays during October were on average 3 percent longer.

Hospital length of stays are affected by seasons and although all hospitals have attempted to gradually reduce the length of patient stays, data going back to August 2007 shows that stays usually creep up in October. In 2008, for example, April, May, June and August all saw lower patient stays than October.

But in 2009, stays in October were actually the second lowest in more than two years. The only month with a lower average stay was August 2009, when swine flu infection rates plummeted due to the school holidays and better weather.

The implication that patients are being discharged earlier, possibly with greater levels of frailty and ill-health will fuel concerns that they will need to be readmitted. Since 1998-99, the percentage of patients over 75 who have needed to be readmitted as an emergency case within 28 days of having been discharged has increased by almost a third, from 10.9 per cent to 14.2 per cent.

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