Peabody helps relieve pressure on the NHS through discharge support
Discharging patients from hospital: how can we prevent housing-related delays?
- Housing specialists within social housing could play an important role in relieving pressure on the NHS, says Dave Black, Director of Care and Support Commissioned Services at Peabody
- Housing specialists are well placed to help medically fit patients with housing issues leave hospital, freeing up much-needed beds and preventing homelessness
- Housing specialists are now working within hospital discharge teams offering expertise to support discharge into suitable accommodation, thereby supporting patients to achieve positive outcomes
Around 13,000 people in England are occupying hospital beds despite being medically fit for discharge. And each unnecessary night a patient stays in hospital costs the NHS over £300. Delayed discharge not only leads to poorer health outcomes for patients, but it also prevents other people from receiving urgent medical care.
In a number of cases, patients can’t leave the ward due to their unsuitable housing situation. Maybe their home isn’t safe to return to. Or perhaps they don’t have one at all.
Housing associations and support providers can help resolve these barriers, so that patients can leave hospital once they’re ready. Peabody is commissioned by local authorities, Integrated Care Boards and NHS Trusts to provide housing-related support for patients in acute or mental health hospitals.
By helping them move on quickly, we save the NHS vital time, money and resources. We also set individuals up for long-term success, by providing tailored, trauma-informed support and working closely with specialist organisations. We help people gain independence and maintain their wellbeing for longer, which prevents homelessness and return visits to hospital.
There are two service models that we offer in areas of London and the surrounding counties: housing advice for patients on the ward, and supported housing schemes for people experiencing homelessness.
1. Housing advice for patients
We can provide one-to-one support for patients who are experiencing housing-related delays. Our housing advisors work alongside the ward discharge team, helping patients prepare to successfully move on.
This could involve things like arranging home adaptations, making housing applications and giving patients benefits advice. In some areas we also employ a handyperson to visit patients’ homes and install keylocks, move furniture, tidy clutter and generally ensure that their home is safe to be lived in.
We support some patients even after they’ve left hospital, so that they can keep gaining skills to maintain their independence and wellbeing beyond the ward.
In 2021 to 2022, we advised and supported 538 patients, carers, families and hospital staff. One patient had no gas or electricity at home and no income, as his pension was suspended. This would have prevented him from being discharged on time, so he was referred for our service.
With help from our housing advisor, he reactivated his pension and received a back-payment of £19,750. This meant he could clear his debt, buy a TV licence, replace his mouldy bed and hire a cleaner. We also helped him set up a direct debit for his bills, got the gas uncapped and put credit on his meters so that everything was ready for his return. He moved on from hospital as soon as he was fit.
2. Supported housing schemes
We also offer short-term housing for patients who don’t have a suitable home to return to after hospital. Since 2018, one of the two schemes we own and manage in London has saved the NHS more than £2 million, by helping 156 patients move out of hospital.
Many of these people were experiencing homelessness, so we not only helped them find a longer-term home, but we prepared them for a successful transition towards a stable and positive future.
This involves helping them maximise their income, gain key independent living skills and connect with specialist support providers.
By taking a sensitive, tailored approach, we help individuals who have faced trauma and crisis engage with our support and experience better outcomes. Claire, one of our customers, said: “I always found it really difficult to talk to anyone, let alone open up about my past and problems that I’ve been through. But I’ve found it really easy here, and I think it’s just the way the team are with you.”
In one scheme, more than 90% of our customers have moved on successfully, without re-experiencing homelessness.
Working together to improve homes and health
During this time of exceptional pressure on the NHS, we have seen a welcome rise in cross-sector collaboration. Involving housing experts throughout the discharge pathway and connecting them to patients even while they’re on the ward is essential if we are to reduce delayed discharge caused by homelessness or unsuitable housing.
But a timely move-on is only part of the solution. We need to set our sights wider and ensure that patients leaving hospital are prepared for ongoing success - so they can maintain their independence, health and happiness into the future.
Involving housing-specialists like Peabody can help local authorities and the NHS to achieve both these goals, all while cutting costs, freeing up medical professionals’ time and helping every patient to have a positive experience.