As cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 continue to rise, teams are working together to help protect elderly and vulnerable patients to get them home and safe as the surge in cases results in a spike in hospital admissions.
The new variant has also led to some care providers and health and care settings managing the additional demands and staff shortages.
Although the healthcare system is under pressure, discharge teams across Nottingham and Nottinghamshire health and social care are working together to help patients leave hospital sooner once they are well enough to help protect them and get them into a safer environment.
Health chiefs add that hospital is the best place for patients who are very unwell, but being at home in their own environment once they are well enough enables them to recover more quickly.
Melanie Brooks, corporate director, for adult social care and health at Nottinghamshire County Council, said: “Despite the challenges, we are working with the NHS to support people out of hospital and into safe and appropriate care settings, to get the help they need during the holiday period and over the next couple of months.
“But our social care services are under pressure due to staff shortages and we are asking people to do what they can – while being safe – to help neighbours, family members and friends who may need some support.
"Every small effort to look out for one another could help.”
There are a number of things friends and families can do to support their loved one to come out of hospital quicker when they are ready.
These include checking their home is set up for their return – or a spare room if they are moving in with family.
Other key actions include arranging to pick them up from hospital and, if they are frail or needing support, checking that their fridge is stocked, their heating is on and they are checked on regularly.
Sara Storey, director for adult health and social care in Nottingham City, said: “Thank you to everyone in Nottingham and Nottinghamshire who is looking out for a relative or friend, providing informal care and support, or being a good neighbour, and joining our health and social care staff in their efforts to help people to get home from hospital as soon as they can.
"All of your support is greatly appreciated – being a carer can often be very hard work – you are all an essential part of our team.”
Michelle Rhodes, chief nurse at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust said: “Increasingly we are seeing patients in our hospitals every day who no longer need our acute specialist care and who are safe to be discharged back home or to their normal place of residence to continue their recovery.
"We know it is in the best interest of these patients to leave hospital as soon as possible.
“We also have many patients in our emergency department needing our acute specialist care who need to be admitted and many patients awaiting surgery who desperately need a bed.
“Before a patient leaves hospital, their care team will talk with them and their family and carers if appropriate, about going home or going to another place for care.
"We will always ensure that everything is in place, including visiting them at home and signposting them to further sources of support if needed.
“We are working hard with colleagues in social care and we know families are doing everything they can to support their loved ones.
“We know many patients have a preference for where they want to go when they leave hospital, but if a patient is offered a bed in a place that is not their first choice, we would urge them to take it whilst their care package is arranged and an alternative arrangement can be made.
"Our teams are doing everything they can to ensure that our hospitals are as Covid-safe as they can be, but if you no longer need to be in hospital we know that it is not the best place for you to be.”
Julie Hogg, chief nurse for Sherwood Forest Hospitals, added: “At Sherwood, we always strive to give the same care to our patients as we would want for our own friends and family, but we know that once patients are well enough to go home that is the best place to recover with the right support in place.
"We are working hard with our social care partners to ensure where needed, packages of care are provided for our patients so that they can return home to a safe and well managed environment.
"Where possible we work closely with family members to ensure that this can happen and that their loved ones have all they need to return home.
“Over the last month we have seen our average length of hospital stay increase by one day.
"This extended stay significantly increases the chance of patients experiencing delays in their care when they seek emergency care via the emergency department or by ambulance.
"We know that once well enough a hospital bed is not the best place to recover, so we are encouraging families to support us to get loved one’s home where they can.”