What if finding a bed in a care home was as easy as finding a room in a hotel? | Kulbir Lalli

Kulbir Lalli

Health and social care partners across Hertfordshire have worked together to develop a uniquely simple solution to the issue of delayed transfers of care. Kulbir Lalli, head of integrated accommodation commissioning at Hertfordshire County Council, explains.

The problems associated with delayed transfers of care from hospitals and their resulting cost pressures have dominated headlines in recent months. At a staggering £900 million a year, in Hertfordshire we’re attempting to reduce this by implementing an online care home bed-finding solution. 

Working with partners such as the Hertfordshire Care Providers Association and clinical commissioning groups, we have developed technology which we hope will streamline processes, save time and in turn improve patient and frontline staff experiences. 

Simply named, Herts Care Search is a website created alongside health and social care software provider, OLM Systems. With their help we have created a piece of software that makes finding a bed in a care home as easy as finding a room in a hotel. 

How it works
Rather than spending considerable time on the phone each day to multiple care homes, homefinder staff simply check the easy-to-use system for vacancies. There is an option to filter each search to meet criteria such as bed type, location, date availability, contract type (block or spot), price and bed type (residential, nursing or respite care). 

Enabling staff to move away from time spent searching for beds to more time on supporting people and families to receive the right care, the Herts Care Search system is making a difference. 

We can now get patients where they need to be more efficiently. For every day that an elderly patient spends in hospital they lose 5 per cent of their body strength. The more efficient and streamlined the identification of ongoing care is, the better the outcomes are for people and their families. 

Care providers
By increasing the volume of vacancies that can be found and processed, we are also contributing to improved occupancy rates within care homes in Hertfordshire. By ensuring that occupancy rates are maximised, we can help care providers remain viable and the local care economy remain stable, with the beds that we commission fully used. 

The system is also free of charge for providers to use. It is designed to help combat the effects of delayed transfers of care – not to make a profit out of providers that are looking to make a difference. The power of the system rests with care homes as they ,and they alone, have the power to accept or reject bookings. 

A public–facing site
After a successful trial run, we launched the public-facing part of the system on 1 April 2017. This is an important addition as for the first time, individuals, family, friends and carers will be able to search quickly and easily and see available beds in Hertfordshire in real time. 

Importantly, users can access information about each care home and read their most recent Care Quality Commission inspection report, giving clients and their families greater piece of mind about how and where their loved one will be looked after. The system will enable clients and carers to go online and make informed choices about their long-term or respite care. 

Early feedback from public users has been really positive. Soo Venour, who is a full-time carer to her elderly father-in-law and requires occasional respite care for him said,: “It will be very useful to have somewhere straightforward I can go to that’s going to give me access to all the information I need in one place.”

Soo explained that arranging respite had often been complicated and praised the functionality and simplicity of the system. 

Herts Care Search is a uniquely simple solution that we hope will make a genuine difference to a complex problem. It’s still in early stages in Hertfordshire and is already playing an important role in our efforts to reduce delayed discharges from hospitals into care homes.

Kulbir Lalli is head of integrated accommodation commissioning at Hertfordshire County Council. 

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