Councils’ scheme to cut hospital discharge delays extended

Councillors in Runnymede have agreed to extend their part of an innovative scheme which uses social housing to free up hospital beds.

Health chiefs have praised the success of the ‘Step Up Step Down’ scheme which brought together Runnymede, Woking, Spelthorne and Elmbridge councils and the North West Surrey Health and Care Alliance. The project is a strong example of partnership working between borough councils and health partners locally.

Each council provides a number of flats to support the scheme. These are allocated to patients medically fit to leave hospital but who are not quite ready to return home and resume their daily activities. Whilst the current focus is on the ‘step down’ from hospital, the step-up element exists where people need extra support just before they go into hospital.

The scheme has run on a pilot basis since March 2021. Its success means when a patient is medically ready to leave hospital, they can live in one of the step-down units for six weeks with a range of support provided dependent on their ongoing needs. Doing so frees up a bed on a ward which allows other patients to be treated quicker. It also allows the patient to move on to a more independent stage of recovery in a home environment.

Some of the sites have onsite care available, or an agency care package will be put in place for their discharge.

In Runnymede, the flats are located at one of the Council’s Independent Retirement Living schemes in Chertsey. Cllr Jacqui Gracey, Chair of Runnymede Borough Council’s Housing Committee said:

 I’m delighted that councillors have unanimously approved the request from North West Surrey Health and Care Alliance for this scheme to be be extended. It is a prime example of councils and the health service working together for the good of local people.


We all know the challenges health and social care are facing, this scheme demonstrates clearly the impact that can be achieved at local level when we bring our resources to bear.

The scheme aligns with the Council’s new Health and Wellbeing Strategy which focuses on how the Council can provide the right social and physical environment to support people’s health.

Cllr Chris Howorth, Chair of the Council’s Community Services Committee, which has oversight of the strategy, said:

 Nobody who needs hospital treatment wants to wait any longer than they absolutely have to. This scheme frees up beds and helps more people get treated quicker. We should applaud it and personally I would encourage other councils and NHS units to consider whether they can adopt it.

Staff working on the scheme co-ordinate patients into accommodation depending on their needs, and can also arrange meals at home and other wrap around support.

The scheme is funded by the NHS, meaning there is no cost to the councils.

Jack Wagstaff, Place Based Leader and Chief Officer for North West Surrey Health and Care Alliance, said:

 I’m delighted that we are able to continue to provide the Step Down scheme in North West Surrey. The scheme allows us to provide the right level of care, in the right setting, for individuals requiring extra support before they are able to return home. It is a great example of how we can improve outcomes and provide better care for our community through local authorities and health and care services working together.

Published: 7 February 2023