A digital portal which helps NHS hospitals find care home places for patients is to be rolled out across England in a bid to cut unnecessary delays.
The Capacity Tracker provides a “shop window” for vacancies, saving staff the time they would normally spend phoning around to check availability.
The tool, which can be accessed on any device, is to be made available to all hospitals, care homes and councils in the country following successful pilots, NHS England said.
More than 6,250 care homes in Devon, Berkshire and northern England have already signed up to the system, and thousands more are now expected to join them.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “One of the central ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan is to better support people to age well, and that means joining up different services locally to better meet people’s needs.
“By using this technology to work together more closely, hospitals, local authorities and care homes can ensure that people get the right care in the right place at the right time, and aren’t left waiting in hospital unnecessarily.”
The tracking portal was developed by the North of England Commissioning Support Unit to address delays in finding care for patients who are ready to be discharged from hospital, but not well enough to go home.
It also provides information about care homes, to help staff and patients decide on the most appropriate option.
Glen Garrod, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said every effort should be made to care for people in the community.
“We must think ‘home first’,” he said.
“If after a thorough discussion with the person and their family, it is decided that going home is not an option and a residential care home is required then it is important we work together, with individuals and their families, to support them to make an informed choice based upon the information and advice provided.”
The project has been funded by NHS England.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it was “encouraging” to see a “local success story” rolled out across the country.
He said: “I’m a huge believer in the power of technology to improve the way we deliver public services.
“The best digital innovations are often brilliantly simple and this new Capacity Tracker tool is a perfect example of the kind of services that we want to cultivate through the NHS Long Term Plan.
“I want to see more technology like this unlocked for the benefit of people across both health and social care and I urge more hospitals and care homes to sign up.”