NURSES in Morecambe Bay have taken to visiting care homes in a bid to reduce the number of elderly people dying in hospital.

A team of nurses and nurse practitioners launched a new way of managing the growing influx of pensioners into hospitals.

Informally known as bed-blocking, hospitals across the UK are struggling to cope with the long-term occupation of beds, chiefly by elderly people, due to a shortage of suitable care elsewhere.

At the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust nurses have been flagging up potential long-term inpatients as soon as they are brought into A&E.

Once admitted, the nursing team then look at the patient's living conditions, to identify any improvements needed to ensure they are able to return home as soon as possible.

They then work with other agencies, or care homes, to ensure patients are not simply being admitted to hospital 'to die' when they would prefer to be at home.

Nurse Practitioner Alison Nicholson told a UHMBT board meeting last month: "We are a small but very driven team of people who identify people coming into A&E who are over 75.

"In the Morecambe Bay area we have a population of 365,000 people of which 23.7 per cent are over 65.

"We recognised we needed to be more proactive."

Alongside her colleague Colette Saville, Mrs Nicholson told the story of a care home resident called 'Mary' (not her real name), who lived in the Lake District.

"We talk to patients' GPs, we ask the patients and their families what they want, and what they need in order to get home if that's what they want," she said.

"Mary was taken to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary by ambulance; we identified ways to get her home, and within 40 minutes she was on her way back in the ambulance that brought her."

Five days after being taken back to the care home where she was comfortable Mary passed away.

The new initiative has so far helped 96 out of 175 inpatients to return home as soon as possible.

Out of those discharged five passed away comfortably shortly after returning.