Care ‘traffic control’ centres to expand nationwide by December

NHS England’s board meeting in Birmingham today is due to set out a number of measures aiming to help the health service prepare for winter, including the expansion of care ‘traffic control’ centres designed to speed up discharge through coordinated data use.

In today’s update, NHSE states that around a quarter of local areas provide a control centre service 12 hours a day, seven days a week, adding that care traffic control centres will “provide one place for staff to locate and co-ordinate the best and quickest discharge options for patients – either at home or into social or community care”.

NHS England cites examples at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust where its Timely Care Hub has supported staff track tasks and patient statuses live, and check information such as anticipated discharge date and pathways. In North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, a system is used to support a control room track patients from admission through their hospital journey.

Last October, NHSE published a letter to all integrated care boards advising them to implement system control centres by December 2022. In today’s update, NHSE states the expansion is planned for every area of the country by winter, with NHSE sharing an expectation that “a third of patients could be discharged using this model by December”.

The new scheme follows the publication of the Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan, which placed focus on the need to scale up virtual ward capacity and increase utilisation to 80 percent by September 2023. Today, NHSE says that £250 million in funding has been invested to boost capacity and speed up discharge since the publication of the plan.

Earlier this month, we covered the delivery and improvement support shared by NHSE following the recovery plan, which shares 10 “high impact initiatives” designed to support systems in preparing for winter including an online maturity matrix and virtual support for ‘recovery champions’.