Memorandum by Bettercaring (DD 5)
A subsidiary of The Stationery Office, bettercaring.co.uk
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.
bettercaring.co.uk's pilot study
has demonstrated that while social services in the borough were
aware of only three bed vacancies, using BEDVACS we found there
actually were 20.
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
Bettercaring Survey 26 November 2002. Back