The National Health Service (NHS) and the councils are introducing a digital tool called Capacity Tracker that will allow health and social care staff to immediately know the vacancy status in local care homes.
The portal saves time, as the staff will not be required to make phone calls to check availability. It will also help people to get the right care or return home as quickly as possible.
As part of its Long Term Plan for the health service, NHS England is rolling out new technology to care homes, councils and hospitals across the country so that people who require a care home placement will get support for quicker discharge from hospitals.
In 2018, a quarter of a million hospital bed days in England were occupied by people who were fit to be discharged, but faced delays in finding a care home that could meet their recovery needs.
Working with councils, the NHS has reduced the number of lost bed days by 20% between 2017 and 2018.
The new digital tool, Capacity Tracker, can be accessed on any device and is being made more widely available as part of measures to reduce unnecessary delays leaving hospital still further.
Using the portal, care homes can upload details of their available beds in less than 30 seconds. This will help health and social care staff in finding the right services for individual patients, including those with dementia or a learning disability.
So far, more than 6,250 care homes have signed up to the system, which was piloted in the North, Devon and Berkshire in 2018.
The Capacity Tracker has been developed by the North of England Commissioning Support Unit, funded by NHS England. The support unit has also led the pilot.
Care homes, local authority, CCG and hospital staff have been involved in creating the system. Feedback is also sought regularly from Care Home Champions to improve and spread the use of the tracker.
The roll-out of the tool is expected to contribute to the goals set in the NHS Long Term Plan to upgrade support to reduce avoidable long stays in hospital. This includes better sharing of information between care homes and hospital staff.
The Capacity Tracker allows care homes to share their vacancies as well as other information about the care home, so that an informed choice can be made.
A team will also provide telephone support to care homes for registration and uploading information.