Headlines: January 10th, 2002

A new report suggests that extra funding for councils may not be the only answer to solving winder pressures on the NHS.The Government has this week announced more funding for local councils to provide care, which will bridge the gap between leaving hospital and being able to cope at home.

But a new report by the King’s Fund independent health charity, suggests a better alternative is stopping older people getting ill in the first place.

Managing the Pressure, by Michael Damiani and Jennifer Dixon, shows that the only category of emergency admission to show any real seasonal variation is respiratory disease. The majority of cases that result in long hospital stays are amongst people over 55, many with chronic illnesses. For people aged over 85, the average length of stay in hospital is more than two weeks.

The study concludes that better disease management may have prevented some of these hospital admissions or reduced the patients’ length of stay.

The report suggests that people who are at high risk of being admitted to hospital in cold weather can quite easily be identified by health professionals. They should be targeted for flu vaccinations and get regular health checks from their GPs as part of a package of care aimed at improving their health and preventing avoidable hospital stays.

The King’s Fund applauds the likely impact of NHS Direct and walk-in centres which should help to improve access to health care during the winter.

The study was part-funded by the London Region of the NHS Executive. It is based on figures in the Department of Health’s Hospital Episode Statistics for London from April 1997 to March 2001.

Link: www.kehf.org.uk