DELAYS in moving patients out of hospital over half term were “not acceptable”, GWH’s chief has said.

The holiday led to delays in discharging patients from hospital departments, leaving GWH in “real trouble”.

Managers were faced with “about half” the number of discharges compared to normal weeks, said Nerissa Vaughan, chief executive of the Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

She estimated that it would now take “about a fortnight” to get the patients delayed over half-term out of the hospital.

Speaking at a meeting of the trust’s board of directors, Ms Vaughan blamed problems in getting patients out the “back door” of the hospital and into council-managed social care facilities like care homes.

She said: “I saw things last week that were just not acceptable: patients delayed in the hospital that needed to go home.

“There are process delays in the system, which soon pins down the patients. We’ve got to get that cracked.

“We will have to take some real action around focussing patient-by-patient with partners to make sure we make sure we are getting people into the right place and that they’re not being delayed.

“I think we’re going to end up having to do that patient-by-patient, three times a week, at a senior level, with councils and with the CCG. That is what will drive it.”

She said that Great Western Hospital was “surrounded by two very difficult areas”, Swindon and Wiltshire. Ms Vaughan said that the two councils had been written to by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about their poor performance in getting patients out of hospital and into the social care system.

Coun Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for adults’ health and social care, said: “We are acutely aware of the pressures on the Great Western Hospital and have been working hard with our partners to ensure patients return home as quickly as possible.”

He said that the Jeremy Hunt letter referred to data from last July. “Since that time, our performance in this area has improved significantly,” he said.

“This improvement is due to social workers having daily discussions with ward staff to ensure patients return home or to move to alternative settings as soon they are able. We have also increased capacity in our in-house reablement team, which means we can deal with twice as many patients as before.”

In September – the latest month for which data is available – there were 361 delayed transfer of care days in Swindon. Nicknamed “bed blocking” days, these are where a patient is well enough to be discharged from hospital but cannot be sent home – for example, because there is no care home place.”

A new scheme GWH is aiming to get patients off the wards sooner.

The project, called Red2Green, sees staff categorise each patient’s day as red or green depending on whether their treatment that day is helping to get them home.

So, a “red” day might be one spent waiting in bed for test results. A “green” day would see the patient receive care or treatment. Patients are also being asked to do tasks like dressing or moving around the ward, that could help prepare them for life outside hospital.

Paulette Knight, head of site operations at GWH, said: “There are some fantastic stories doing the rounds about NHS organisations that have seen patients’ time in hospital reduce because of Red2Green, and there's absolutely no reason why similar success can't be repeated in Swindon.”