Select Committee on Health Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Bettercaring (DD 5)


  A subsidiary of The Stationery Office, was launched on 1 May 2001 and provides a comprehensive online database of over 20,000 registered care homes in the UK. Information is constantly updated by the homes themselves directly on the website, as well as bettercaring who maintains direct contact with Registration and Inspection Authorities. Bettercaring provides a bed vacancy service (BEDVACS) that is currently being piloted by the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. BEDVACS provides real time information on all the homes with bed vacancies in a given geographical area. It was created to assist in early discharge from hospital by saving time on placements research.

  1.  It is well documented that the average hospital stay of an elderly person is 28 days longer than necessary. This "bed blocking" phenomenon is, in part, a result of the time taken to find a suitable care home. In our experience, social workers may spend on average half a day telephoning care homes to find an appropriate and vacant care home bed for a patient, before being able to consider making a placement. It is estimated that BEDVACS or a similar information system could reduce this time from as much as half a day to as little as ten minutes.

  2.  Due to increasing care homes closures, the search for suitable care homes has become significantly difficult as demand outstrips supply. At present, the available data on bed vacancies in care homes is very fragmented. This means that the true number of bed places is rarely evident to care professionals.'s pilot study[1] has demonstrated that while social services in the borough were aware of only three bed vacancies, using BEDVACS we found there actually were 20[2]. Providing social services staff with an up-to-date list of vacancies not only reduces their research time, but also enables them to make the most appropriate choice for their clients. The bettercaring site enables the user to specify detailed search criteria, such as "languages spoken" (including sign language) enabling a placement officer to pinpoint care homes where a client's first language is spoken. In practice, without a system like BEDVACS, finding a care home with this individual prerequisite may involve many hours of phoning around.

  3.  Access to the Internet in Social Services departments can be quite limited. To overcome this, bettercaring has successfully taken the initiative to offer in addition to the online service, its bed vacancy service (BEDVACS) to participating local authorities by means of email and fax. Using BEDVACS, placement research time is considerably reduced; social workers can locate vacant beds as soon as the need appears, allowing for timely hospital discharge. BEDVACS, listing all bed vacancies in a given area enables social workers to match their client's exact care requirement. Timely discharge therefore benefits clients who can be looked after in an environment that suits them. Importantly, early discharge frees hospital beds for patients who need hospital treatment.

1   Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Back

2   Bettercaring Survey 26 November 2002. Back

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Prepared 29 July 2002