Plaid Cymru has responded to the growing delays outside of accident and emergency departments by urging the Welsh Government and local health boards to consider the creation of 'patient hotels' – a concept widely used in Scandinavian countries to support patients who no longer need 24 hour medical care.
Concerns have already begun to surface this week as the number of ambulances being stuck outside A&E departments begins to grow.
Carmarthenshire representatives Adam Price AM and Jonathan Edwards MP have been contacted by two medical professionals who stated that services were at risk of grinding to a halt if around 50 people at West Wales General Hospital who were awaiting discharge did not have a care package in place soon. Recent media reports also note that 15 ambulances were queuing outside the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff on Sunday night.
Patient hospitals are commonly used to accommodate elderly patients awaiting discharge or supporting patients who are recovering from a stroke.
Assembly Member Mr Price said investing in NHS medical care homes to reduce hospital admissions and 'patient hotels' to reduce delayed transfers of care – a policy published in Plaid Cymru's 2016 manifesto for the National Assembly – could play a profound role in preventing bed blocking which would, in turn, prevent a logjam throughout hospitals across Wales.
Mr Price also said the concept should be considered urgently alongside the full and proper integration of health and social care.
Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards said that pressures on hospitals are only likely to grow as the weather worsens, and added that a twenty-first century model for convalescence was needed.
Adam Price AM said:
"Patient hotels are not a new concept – indeed they are very common in a number of Scandinavian countries where patients who don't need 24 hour medical care receive their treatments or rehabilitation services in an alternative environment.
"That environment is, of course, to the highest clinical standards but it crucially reduces the pressures on trauma units and hospital wards, whilst providing services at a fraction of the cost to the NHS compared to hospital beds. It is a modern equivalent to the convalescence homes that used to be a feature of our communities but were so sadly closed down over a sustained period.
"Investing in NHS medical care homes to reduce hospital admissions in the first place, and the introduction of patient hotels to reduce delayed transfers of care – a policy published by my party in last year's Assembly election – could play a profound role in preventing bed blocking which would, in turn, prevent a logjam throughout hospitals across Wales.
"Of course the full and proper integration of health and social care services is what is really going to tackle the delayed transfer of care and ensuring our friends and loved ones have a seamless transition from ill health to getting back on their feet. But patient hospitals will undoubtedly form part of that model in the future, so I'd like to see these being urgently considered within the Welsh NHS."
Jonathan Edwards MP added:
"It is concerning to receive reports of ambulances being backed up outside A&E departments, particularly as the problem is likely to grow as the weather worsens.
"Many who work in our hospitals tell us that delayed transfer of care is a vicious cycle in that it effects patients who have elective surgery that may not be able to have a bed, and it also prevents admissions from casualty departments. Ambulances queuing is more often or not a result of patients not being discharged from the wards.
"The patient hospital is very much a twenty-first century model for convalescence which I'm sure would be welcomed by so many people that were disappointed to see their local convalescence hospital closed in the first place."