Understanding patient flow in hospitals

Karakusevic, S. Nuffield Trust. Published online: 11 October 2016

patient-flow

Image source: Nuffield Trust

This briefing lays out how greater speed through a system often requires more space. Looking at trusts that meet the four hour target and those furthest from meeting it, it estimates that at least 5.5% of beds need to be free for the standard to be met. Yet many hospitals are unable to provide this much of the time, making target breaches inevitable.

The paper looks at ongoing changes driving this squeeze on bed space, including mortality, the squeeze on bed space during years of austerity, rising numbers of patients with multiple conditions, and delayed discharges.

An analysis examines how bed use and patient flow change through the course of the day, drawing on Hospital Episode Statistics which track admissions and discharges. It shows that bed occupancy does not peak at midnight, when the official census of patients is carried out, but in mid morning. Meanwhile, the highest need for patients to be moved through hospital peaks at an entirely different time of day, in the evening.

Read the full summary here

Read the full report here

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