Reducing medical patient bed pressures in hospitals in Wessex
15 Oct 2018

Reducing medical patient bed pressures in hospitals in Wessex

Published Date: 15 Oct 2018

Many hospitals in the United Kingdom face constant disruption to their working due to shortages of medical beds. Cancellations of elective operations, emergency department overcrowding, ambulance handover delays, staff morale, patient safety and experience all suffer as a consequence. 

The model predicted the impact the changes across a range of hospital based measures. For example, trolley waiting times in the ED and the number of medical patients who had to be admitted to a non-medical bed due to bed shortages.  

Contribution of CLAHRC Wessex

CLAHRC Wessex Data Science Hub collaborated with an NHS trust to produce evidence about how their service could be reorganised to reduce medical bed pressures. They developed a computer model of the hospital, from patient admissions in ED to their discharge from an in-patient ward. The model was used to test a new way of caring for patients with a predicted length of stay of less than three days. Several hospital wards were used to exclusively manage these patients while the remaining patients continued to be cared for in the same way as before.  

The model predicted the impact the changes across a range of hospital based measures. For example, trolley waiting times in the ED and the number of medical patients who had to be admitted to a non-medical bed due to bed shortages.  

What happened next?

Testing the change to a service in a model, provided hospital management with evidence before any changes were made to the real hospital. An informed decision could then be made about how the change should be introduced. This avoids expensive, risky and the unclear results of trial and error with the real system.

Dedicated clinicians and beds for short stay patients do reduce hospital bed pressures and ED overcrowding. However, the benefits are quickly lost if predictions of length of stay are inaccurate. The hospital needs to maintain a minimum of 70% accuracy to work within the current medical bed base and 80% accuracy to begin to reduce ED overcrowding.