A FRAILTY Unit has opened at Tunbridge Wells Hospital in Pembury as part of drive to reduce the number of long-stay patients.

The ability of the health service to cope with ever growing demand has been crippled by ‘bed-blocking’.

Patients remain in hospital despite being well enough to return home, often because of issues surrounding discharge and ongoing care – and the problem is especially prevalent among the elderly.

The new department, set up by Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust’s [MTW],

is equipped to look after 10 people and offers ‘rapid intervention’ from the point of arrival at Accident & Emergency.

Frailty Unit patients are reviewed and supported by a senior geriatrician and teams from nursing, therapy, pharmacy and Integrated Discharge.

They will rapidly assess, treat and, where appropriate, safely discharge patients, providing a link between ‘acute and community settings’.

Anyone who is not suitable for discharge will be transferred to a short stay bed on another ward.

Patients who are aged 75 and over and who meet national criteria for frailty, will be eligible for the service.

A Frailty Unit at Maidstone Hospital was successfully introduced by MTW a year ago.

The Trust’s Associate Director of Nursing, Sally Foy, said: “Acute Frailty Units have been proven to provide the best quality of care for older patients.

“By focusing on bringing together the right resources and a range of clinicians we have seen excellent results, providing high standards of care as well as improved collaboration with families, a great staff experience and a reduction in the number of long-stay patients in hospital.”

The facility at Maidstone sees 35 per cent of its patients discharged home with ‘personalised support’, helping to prevent further hospital admissions.

Ms Foy added: “Our staff are committed to making sure that older patients are always given the most appropriate care and treatment, that they are respected, listened to and supported at all times.”

A Trust spokesman said: “This service improvement is only the beginning of an important change in the way acute hospital care supports these patients.

“The Frailty Unit will continue to develop links with community service providers to ensure that patients benefit from services traditionally delivered in a hospital environment, whilst remaining in their own home.

“These community services will also work in partnership with the hospital to ensure that frail patients only remain in hospital when absolutely necessary and, when fit to do so, return to their home seamlessly and without delay.”