Patient’s five-hour wait at Blackpool Victoria Hospital for pain pills she could have bought in a shop... for just 19p

Blackpool Victoria Hospital
Blackpool Victoria Hospital
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Renewed calls have been made for hospital discharge times to be improved  after a councillor revealed she waited five hours to go home before a prescription could be issued which turned out to be for paracetamol.

Health chiefs say measures have now been taken to speed up the process so beds can be freed up more swiftly.

Coun Debbie Coleman

Coun Debbie Coleman

They say 12 wards at Blackpool Victoria Hospital now have dedicated pharmacy teams which are helping reduce delays in handing out medicines before patients can go home.

A meeting of Blackpool Council's adult social care and health scrutiny committee heard it was hoped to roll the scheme out to more of the hospital.

The measure was among 10 recommendations councillors had set out in a scrutiny report published last year.

Bosses from Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust updated the committee on progress which has been made.

Bernice Groves, director of operations (urgent and emergency care), said: "We have 12 wards with dedicated pharmacists which has reduced the time to get prescriptions to the wards and so we are able to have quicker discharges.

"We hope to roll this out to more of the hospital.

"We have improvements still to do around the time clinicians do ward rounds and we have clear plans so people go through the system in a streamlined approach."

Coun Debbie Coleman told the meeting during a recent hospital stay she had had to wait five hours for her prescription before being allowed home, only to find it was for paracetamol.

She said: "If I had know it was just for paracetamol I could have left five hours before and gone to the corner shop to buy it myself.

"It was unbelievable, and someone else could have had the bed."

According to a report to the committee, the average turnaround for discharges monitored by the pharmacy department was 90 minutes in May.

Ms Groves added work was also being done to get older patients back to their own homes more quickly following a hospital stay, using occupational therapy and social care to ensure this was safe to do.

The scheme, called 'Home First', enabled 174 patients to return to their own homes between October last year and May this year, instead of having to rely on residential or nursing home care.

Other recommendations made by the committee which have been acted on include allowing only up to two people to accompany patients in A&E, publicising the extended access GP appointments scheme more widely and exploring whether the first 30 minutes of parking could be free.

10,000 days of care wasted from unnecessary delays in getting patients home and freeing beds

Health chiefs in Blackpool have been working to cut the length of time patients spend in hospital and avoid unnecessary delays that prevent beds being freed up for others. It comes in response to a wide-ranging report last year that identified ways to tackle some of the problems facing Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Actions taken so far include developing ways to allow fit and well patients to leave hospital sooner, while still accessing any care they still need in the community, and working with care homes to avoid issues that may hold-up patients’ return to care after a stay in hospital.

Last year, The Gazette revealed how beds taken up by patients who were fit to leave hospital meant more than 10,000 days of care were lost in a 12-month period.

Often because of delays arranging care for the patients, an average of 28 beds a day in Blackpool were full that could otherwise have been used by someone in greater need.

That figure fell to around 19 for the first four months of this year amid efforts to tackle so-called “bed blocking”, which can lead to delays admitting patients when there are no free beds.

The cost of pain pills to the NHS

The NHS has moved to restrict the number of prescriptions handed out for medication that is readily available over the counter in recent years.

It comes after it emerged more than £70m was spent on paracetamol for patients in England in a single year.

The NHS says paracetamol is “an average of four times as expensive when provided on prescription by the NHS”.

But, adding in the cost of dispensing the pills and the GP consultation, providing 32 tablets can cost as much as £34 – when they can be bought over the counter for as little as 40p.

At the time plans were put forward to curb the amount of paracetamol prescribed by the health service, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens, said: “The NHS is one of the most efficient health services in the world but we’re determined to make taxpayers’ money go further.

“The NHS should not be paying for low value treatments and it’s right that we look at reducing prescriptions for medicines that patients can buy for a fraction of the price the NHS pays.”