'WARD walkers' are helping to get more patients discharged quickly from Airedale Hospital and into a care home or their own homes to convalesce.

North Yorkshire Council ward walkers - or transfer of care co-ordinators - work alongside NHS staff at all the main hospitals in the county in an attempt to prevent 'bed-blocking'.

They identify patients who are fit to be discharged, but will need support as they convalesce in the community.

In Skipton, there are eight beds permanently available at the council-run Ashfield care home , where people leaving Airedale Hospital, who are unable to return to their own homes immediately, can convalesce and undergo further rehabilitation.

Ward walkers can put arrangements in place, ranging from short care-home stays to having volunteers help to get people’s own homes ahead of their return from hospital.

The council says without that support, people would have to stay in hospital longer, taking up beds which could be used for new patients.

Councillor Michael Harrison, North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for health and adult services, said: “There has been a lot of publicity over so-called ‘bed-blocking’ and the pressures on hospitals and adult social care recently.

“The reality is we have been working to help alleviate this problem for some time by helping to get people out into the community, with the care they need.

“More recently, we have been working harder than ever, looking for better solutions, and doing as much as we can with as many partners as possible."

He added: “The success of that approach is reflected in the increased numbers of people we have helped to get discharged from hospitals.

“In any given week, social care is supporting between 75 and 100 people to get home from hospital – that’s twice as many people as before the Covid-19 pandemic – and nearly 2,000 people have been assisted to get home since December.

“This has been made possible partly due to the financial support we have had from the Government’s Discharge Fund, but also due to additional investment from the council.

"That is good news for patients, because most people would rather be at home or at least staying in a caring environment, than remaining in hospital. It is also good news for the community at large, because it means there are more hospital beds available for those who might need them.”

The council says having its staff linked to – and often based in – hospitals, where they can see patients immediately and make accurate assessments of their needs, is key to this progress, because it means the correct level of support can be put in place quickly and smoothly.

Decisions have also been taken to provide innovative solutions with intermediate care, including support for the voluntary sector.

It includes the Home from Hospital service, which helps to ensure patients’ homes are suitable for their return from hospital with essentials like fresh groceries, and community transport schemes.