HOSPITAL patients needing further care will be sent home to wait for social services assessments rather than going to care homes.

The new system, called “discharge to assess” is aimed at helping to ease the so-called “bed- blocking” crisis after it was revealed Oxford University Hospital’s Trust missed 10 out of the past 11 monthly targets for reducing the number of delayed transfers of care.

At the moment some patients who are clinically well enough to be discharged are kept in hospital beds while social care arrangements are put in place. This may mean a wait for a place in a nursing home or alterations to their exisitng accommodation.

However not enough patients have had care in place, so hospital targets have been missed every month except one since April last year.

Oxford University Hospitals Trust clinical director of emergency medicine Dr James Price said: “New initiatives are helping us to deliver excellent care closer to home, outside of our hospitals.

“For example, health and social care services have worked together to redesign how patients are assessed, helping older or frail patients to leave hospital as soon as they are fit enough to do so while ensuring that they have support and care at home.”

Clinical Commissioning Group chairman Dr Stephen Richards who was appointed as the county’s bedblocking tsar in 2011, said: “I recognise this is an ongoing problem for the county and it is not one we are proud of.

“I’m convinced that with closer working between the health and social care in the last 12 months, together with the new policy, will deliver the improvements the population deserves.”

It has also been revealed that the county’s “reablement service”, which involves follow-up appointments after people are discharged to cut down on repeated stays in hospital, has been missing targets.

Health bosses had hoped to reach a target of 3,140 follow-up appointments by April, but had only hit 1,566 by December.

Oxfordshire County Council and healthcare providers say the new system will solve problems.

Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “The system aims to ensure that more people return home from hospital in a timely way and have their on-going care needs assessed after they are discharged.

“We don’t believe hospital is the best place to make life-changing decisions and too many people have been going straight from hospital in to a permanent care home place.

“Sometimes people have gone into care homes when they would be better off in their own homes.”

However, campaigners remain unconvinced over the new system. Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, chairman of campaign group Patient Voice, said: “I’m very worried about all this talk about sending people home. If their plan is to send people home and then have someone from the hospital visit them four times a day and assess them then, that would seem fair.

“But they’re not being clear at all, it just seems to be an awful lot of talk but none of the detail.”