PATIENTS will be discharged from hospital quicker under a new NHS campaign aimed at freeing up 7,200 beds a year.
Doctors and nurses have been ordered to review all patients daily, asking themselves: “Why not home? Why not today?”
It could free up capacity equivalent to building an extra 15 hospitals – and ensure new patients can be admitted for ops.
Health chiefs say many patients are staying longer than necessary, putting them at risk of infections and muscle wastage.
But patient groups warned the crackdown could see people forced out too soon as staff feel pressure to hit targets.
Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said efforts should focus on recruiting more doctors and opening more beds.
She added: “Nobody wants to stay in hospital a day longer than necessary but it is essential patients are only discharged when ready.
“With long delays in A&E and huge numbers waiting for routine operations, hospital bosses will feel pressure to free up beds.
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“My worry is it will result in patients being kicked out too soon, when they have not fully recovered, leaving them at risk of harm.”
STAYING TOO LONG?
Almost 350,000 patients currently spend more than three weeks in hospital each year.
But NHS England believes 140,000 could be safely discharged sooner.
Some are delayed because they do not have suitable care plans in place for when they return home.
The number of hospital stays longer than three-weeks was reduced by a tenth in 2018/19, freeing up almost 1,800 beds.
But the NHS is aiming to quadruple the rate this year.
Prof Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “We want to ensure all patients benefit from the shortest possible stay on a ward, getting home as soon as they are fit to leave.
“Not only is that better for them but it also means more beds are available for others who need care too, easing pressure on A&E and other parts of the system.”