STAFF shortages are delaying improvements in the county’s bed-blocking crisis.
Oxford Health’s reablement team is charged with ensuring people who leave hospital are helped back to health and independent living.
But problems recruiting enough staff has led to authorities failing their own timetable to drive down the number of people unnecessarily stuck in hospital beds when they are well enough to leave.
In a new contract set to kick in on on Monday, £1m will be injected into the service to ease the bed-blocking crisis.
It has also been revealed that authorities will ‘over recruit’ staff to the reablement service to ensure it meets targets which have been set out in a groundbreaking new payment-by-results contract.
In June the service – which is paid for by Oxfordshire County Council and is delivered by Oxford Health Foundation NHS Trust – had 47 staff vacancies out of 110 full and part-time positions.
This has since been reduced to 24.
Yvonne Taylor, Oxford Health’s chief operating officer, said targeted radio adverts had helped the recruitment drive.
John Jackson, county council director for social and community services, said: “A new contract was tendered for late last year and Oxford Health Foundation NHS Trust was awarded the contract to deliver the reablement service on behalf of the council.
“This will be a two-year contract, with an option to extend for a further two years, and will start on October 1 with a value of £5m in year one and £5.5m in year two.
“The new contract is based on a payment for the number of people who receive reablement, and includes a bonus payment on delivering the agreed number of episodes.”
The reablement service is one part of a package of measures set out last year to tackle the problem.
When people are discharged from hospital, the reablement team deliver up to six weeks of reablement care to people at home with the aim of getting them back to optimum health before handing them over to long-term support at home services.
Under the new contract, Oxford Health will also receive a bonus if it achieves the council’s targets for the number of new people it works with and its success.
This is measured by the increase in a patient’s independence.
The agreed targets for the new contract are 3,250 people helped in the first year of the contract and 3,750 in year two.
In the first 17 weeks of 2012/13 the service took in 21 per cent more cases than the same week in the previous year.
But despite the increase, health bosses are currently 30 per cent below the original timetable for increasing intake by October 2012 and 20 per cent below their revised target.
Some 672 people started the service to the end of July against an original goal of 933 and a revised one of 846.
Councillor Richard Stevens said: “This county is one of the worst in the country for delayed transfer of care (bed-blocking) figures.
“There’s not sufficient progress in this issue.
“What is being done isn’t working.”
In July there were 115 people stuck in hospital beds unnecessarily, down from 151 in June, and down from 175 at the peak of the problem last October.
In July 2011 there were 146 patients stuck in hospital beds when they were well enough to move on to the next stage of care.
It is costing the Oxford University Hospitals Trust about £5m a year in staffing the extra beds set up for the bed-blockers.