PATIENTS often recover better when they are able to return home.

Not only are they in their own surroundings, as opposed to a hospital ward, they have easier access to family and friends for physical and mental support.

But there’s the major stumbling block of having staff available to provide the necessary care.

Without this, medically-fit patients can end up remaining in hospital wards.

They become “bed blockers”, through no fault of their own.

New funding is being made available to make sure the best treatment is available in the best place and hospital beds are then available for others.

Anglian Community Enterprise, a community interest company, was awarded a £237million contract which, it is hoped, will help to alleviate the problem in north east Essex.

The contract, to run the Care Closer to Home service, was awarded by the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Working closely with GPs, Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, social care, the voluntary sector and other key partners, the concept is for these to work better together so patients can be more independent in their own homes.

Frank Sims, chief executive of Chuft, supports the idea of more care in the community.

“It is in the best interests of patients if health and social care organisations work more collaboratively with greater integration rather than as separate, stand-alone organisations,” he said.

“This is a key principle set out by NHS England’s chief executive Simon Stevens’ Five Year Forward View published in October 2014 which is one I personally support, as does this trust.

“We need to collaborate as a single health and social care system to do all that we can to establish pathways for patients to avoid coming into an acute hospital like Colchester General Hospital in the first place but also, if a patient has an acute clinical need, to discharge them as soon as they are medically fit to leave hospital.

“That is why, for example, we back the seven-year Care Closer to Home contract in north east Essex, which started on April 1, and, in part, is about supporting people with long-term conditions and their families and carers to be independent in their own homes, avoiding hospital admissions.”

Mr Sims said hospitals like Colchester are always needed for people when they have an acute healthcare need.

He continued: “However, when they have recovered sufficiently and are medically fit for discharge from an acute hospital, it is in the best interests of patients that they leave as soon as possible.

“This also has the benefit of freeing up beds for patients who have an acute clinical need.

“Patients may be discharged to a community hospital, like Clacton or Harwich, to a care home with support from social care or back to the their own home with a care package tailored to meet their individual needs.

“There is a mass of evidence to show that patients regain their independence and confidence more quickly if they are discharged from an acute hospital as soon as they are well enough. This also reduces the chances of them acquiring a healthcare-associated infection or losing muscle mass as a result of spending too long in hospital.”

But there are still problems.

As one privately-run care agency says, they do not have the staffing levels to meet the increasing demands put on them by councils or hospitals to treat patients who no longer need to be on the wards.

And as private businesses, neither are they able to simply ask for more cash from councils or the government.

Keaz Kadar, senior manager of Right Care based in Colchester Business Centre, said: “It is really important for the health services to work correctly and efficiently.

“The whole care sector needs to work effectively and needs a large number of home care workers which are going to be the future.

“If you got a committed stream of staff it would help massively.”

Right Care was born nine years ago by Mr Kadar’s mum, and its director, Angela Milburn.

Mrs Milburn’s commitment to caring meant the retirement she was supposed to take – after running residential homes for people with learning disabilities for 30 years – never happened.

Right Care provides community services for elderly people and people with learning disabilities.

It currently employs 15 full-time carers and like all agencies, should follow national guidelines to spend 30 minutes at a time with each client.

However, the very nature of who the carers are dealing with, means this can present its problems.

The agency takes referrals from the NHS, Essex County Council and has its own private clients.

Mrs Milburn said with an increasing population of people who are living longer, the pressure on health services is only getting worse. The resident population of north east Essex is expected to rise by 13 per cent by 2012 to 2021.

Mr Kadar said: “We get about five to eight calls a day from the hospital for referral.

“It's like that across the board.

“If there were more staff here it would have a massive effect to be able to free beds up.”

If the agency doesn’t have the staff available it simply has to turn the hospital down.

The hospital would have to keep trying other agencies until another is found.

Despite the challenges, Right Care believes being a carer is a rewarding job and its staff are paid between £8 and £10 per hour – more than the National Living Wage of £7.20.

Carers typically see four to five clients in a shift.

For more information visit or call 01206 369900.