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NHS launches care home availability portal

New tool is aimed at optimising hospital occupancy and saving social care staff “hours of phoning around”

The NHS has introduced a new tool to make the process of finding a care home placement more efficient while optimising hospital occupancy.

The Capacity Tracker is being rolled out to care homes, councils and hospitals across the country by NHS England as part of the Long-Term Plan to bring the health service into the digital age.

Reducing unnecessary delays in patients leaving hospital is one of the key aims of the portal. According to the NHS, about 250,000 hospital bed days in England were taken up in 2018 by people who were well enough to be discharged, but could not find an appropriate care home.

The new functionality, which allows care homes to update their availability in 30 seconds via any device, also enables social care staff to check available beds in local care homes online, saving “hours of phoning around”.

The Capacity Tracker was developed by the North of England Commissioning Support Unit, funded by NHS England, and the unit is leading the pilot.

The tracker’s wider implementation follows its initial introduction in Greater Manchester in 2017 and further pilots in northern England, Devon and Berkshire last year. Some 6,250 care homes have already signed up to the system.

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“By using this technology to work together more closely, hospitals, local authorities and care homes can ensure that people get the right care in the right place at the right time, and aren’t left waiting in hospital unnecessarily,” said Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England and director at NHS England.

“Working with local government, hospitals and community services as well as patients and their families has been essential to developing this new approach and will be key to rolling it out everywhere.”

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