THE number of patients blocking hospital beds in Gwent fell by almost 40 per cent - and to its lowest in more than than a year - during May.

Last month, 65 patients were classified as delayed transfers of care, remaining in hospital after they were deemed fit for discharge, compared to 108 in April.

The decrease is good news for Gwent health bosses, who have sought to put the brakes on increasing numbers of delayed transfers of care (DToCs) in the area, a rise that has been out of line with a general fall in such cases across Wales.

The reasons for the falling number of DToCs in Gwent are likely to be several-fold, but include reductions in the number of patients waiting for community care arrangements to be completed prior to discharge. This largely relates to the carrying out of adaptations to their homes to help them live independently.

Twenty-seven patients who in April were blocking hospitals beds in Gwent were there because such arrangements had not been completed, but this number had fallen to 15 by May.

There was also a fall - from 30 to 19 - in the number of patients awaiting an assessment of their healthcare needs prior to discharge. Some patients will require a measure of healthcare as part of a care package when at home.

Also down too, was the number of patients (from nine to four) waiting for these healthcare arrangements to be put in place.

Delays over the selection of a care home resulted in discharge delays for 17 patients in Gwent in April, compared to just four in May, though problems persist in trying to reduce the numbers of patients who remain in hospital while waiting for a place to become available at the care home of their choice.

Aneurin Bevan University Health Board chiefs will be looking too for evidence that earlier and more co-ordinated planning for a patient's discharge once they have been admitted to hospital, is a driving force behind the fall in DToCs.

One aspect of this involves the immediate involvement on the arrival at hospital of elderly, complex cases, of the Gwent Frailty Programme, which is designed to provide enhanced care for these patients at home.

The recent introduction of the programme's involvement at the hospital 'front door' is designed to pick up early on patients who could subsequently be looked after at home through that enhanced care.

This could help ease the burden elsewhere in the system, so assessment and other backlogs can be reduced.