Our ambitious plans for investing £450million in modernising and improving Leicester’s hospitals is about much more than simply creating additional beds. Had it not have been it is unlikely our bid for Government funding would have been successful.
Instead our proposals are about correcting decades of capital under-investment in our hospitals. They address some of the clinical adjacency and co-location issues that all too often hinder our ability to deliver the kind of care and experiences we want for our patients.
Simply put services are currently organised in a way that is a legacy of history rather than design, often in buildings and facilities that are outdated and not fit for the delivery of modern healthcare.
This often means that clinical services which should be operating side by side aren’t, creating confusion and multiple journeys for patients. Other times, by providing the same services from multiple sites, our staff and resources are spread too thinly - stretching them to breaking point.
It’s on this basis that we believe these changes are absolutely essential in order for us to improve clinical quality, make the most of a workforce that is already depleted due to national shortages, as well as improving the experiences and outcomes of our patients.
That said we understand the importance of getting our bed numbers right – which is why we keep them under near constant review. Our current assumption is that, if we do nothing, we will need 300 more acute hospital beds by 2024 in order to meet rising health need and population growth.
To help address this shortfall there are a number of things we are already doing and will continue going forward. This includes reducing length of stay beyond what is necessary. This is important because evidence is clear that staying in hospital longer than is needed leads to poorer outcomes.
It is not about sending people home or elsewhere before they’re ready. Rather it is about how we improve our internal processes to make sure that every minute of a patient’s stay counts and that we minimise any delays for tests or treatment. It’s also about how we ensure the discharge of medically fit patients in a timely manner.
Based on the work we’ve done and improvements already made our conservative assessment is that 161 of the beds can be achieved in this way – simply by making better use of what we already have. We think the number could be higher than this, but have taken the decision to be cautious.
We are also planning to create 139 new acute hospital beds.
Our pre-consultation business case described that 69 of these beds would be created up front, with 28 coming from the conversion of an existing non-acute rehab ward so that it is able to accept patients with a greater level of need. The other 70 were described as ‘contingency’ beds, which would be created in later years should they be necessary.
In light of our experiences of responding to the Coronavirus pandemic our thinking has updated slightly. As a result, and as set out in our consultation document, we now plan to create all 139 new acute beds up front in order to provide additional flexibility and capacity should we need it. These will be funded from the £450million government funding and the Trust’s own capital allocation.
Whilst we believe that these additional beds will stand us in good stead beyond 2024 we will, as always, keep our bed planning under constant review. If absolutely necessary we maintain the flexibility to increase bed numbers within our planned estate, while we will also retain 33 acres of developable land – equivalent to approximately 22 football pitches – at our Glenfield site.
Any such future developments would likely be funded from the Trust’s own capital budgets and, working with local NHS and local government partners, through access to section 106 funding and community infrastructure levy to support services when housing growth puts pressure on them.