By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Kent County Council has pledged to spend up to £2.4million on emergency beds to relieve pressure on an “overburdened” hospital system as further coronavirus plans are unveiled.
Between 384 and 420 additional beds may be needed across Kent to support the discharge of patients from local hospitals over the next six months, according to KCC.
This comes as Public Health England predicts a “surge” in Covid-19 cases over the next few weeks and there could be a need to free capacity within Kent’s existing hospital system.
KCC’s cabinet member for adult social care and public health, Cllr Clair Bell (Con), sanctioned the move as part of an urgent executive decision five days ago.
A KCC paper published last week stated: “In order to relieve pressure and free capacity within an already overburdened hospital system there is an urgent need to procure additional bed capacity from the older persons residential and nursing market.”
KCC received an initial £39million from the Government last week to form a large part of its COVID-19 budget. Up to £95k a week could be spent on block beds over the next 26 weeks. None have been purchased at this stage due to the lack of current need, a KCC spokesman said.
They added: “We regularly monitor the availability of social care beds in the county and to date, additional block booking has not been required. Should capacity become required the purchase of beds will be undertaken in phases as necessary.”
The decision has been supported by the chair of KCC’s scrutiny committee Cllr Andy Booth (Con) and KCC’s main opposition leader, Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem).
‘More rest care’
Cllr Bird told the Local Democracy Reporting service: “It’s very clear that we have to find accommodation for people coming out of hospital, whether admitted for Covid or another reason.
“In the current circumstances it’s difficult for elderly people to be helped to live independently, because it’s difficult to put the support they need in place.
“Therefore, I think, the county council has little choice but to accept that we will have to provide more rest care for people until the health emergency is over.”
KCC’s corporate director of adult social care and health, Richard Smith, and, a council officer colleague, compiled information on in-house modelling as part of a bed blocking report last week.
In the paper, they say that some social care beds will be needed to relieve pressure within the system, and as stated, create additional capacity within hospitals as the crisis escalates.
The KCC report adds: “Due to the manner in which these have been procured there will be flexibility in how we deploy these beds.
“This means that capacity can be increased as the situation escalates or reduced as the situation improves, therefore providing essential support to our colleagues in health for hospital discharge.”