WebBeds Online Bed Management Tool

MBU WebBeds Online
Bed Management Tool

The vision for this project was to create an online tool that allowed everyone to see at a glance which mother and baby units (MBUs) across England have available beds.

“This project is about linking the country’s mother and baby units together to provide quick and easy access to useful information,” said Jenny Walsh, Clinical Lead for Perinatal Mental Health at Wessex Clinical Networks.

“It was one Friday afternoon, when our Winchester mother and baby unit was full and I had to field a number of calls from referrers, such as midwives, GPs and Mental Health crisis teams looking for patient beds, that I had the idea of creating a national resource to avoid so much time being wasted, ringing around different units across the country. Such a simple idea I suppose but one that, after much hard work in setting it up, is already proving to be popular.”

The main page of www.nhswebbeds.co.uk displays a map of all mother and baby units in the country. Each unit is marked by a locator pin and the number shown in the pin identifies the unit’s current bed availability (with the colour of the pin indicating future availability). Contact details for each unit are also on display as well as the geographical distances between units.

Jenny added: “The most important feature of WebBeds is its simplicity – it’s designed to be quick for NHS units to update on a daily basis and easy to access for those looking for a bed. I’m hopeful that it will quickly become an essential resource to make it easier to access specialist perinatal mental health services when and where a mother needs them.”

Women who experience mental health problems in pregnancy or in the first postnatal year can develop severe symptoms which can deteriorate rapidly and require emergency treatment. These illnesses are often developed soon after delivery, and a general labour ward in a maternity hospital is often unsuitable for the provision of mental health care.

Mother and baby units are acute mental health wards where women can be admitted with their babies. Across England there are 17 nationally commissioned MBUs. If their local MBU is full, a woman can be admitted to any unit with a bed. Prior to MBU WebBeds, MBU staff spent time dealing with phone calls about potential referrals even if their unit was full, and supplying details of other units to referrers who often had no knowledge of where the MBUs were or how to contact them. Referrers were then further frustrated by having to fill out a different referral form for each unit, something which WebBeds has standardised by developing a universal referral form.

To be a reliable resource, WebBeds requires a staff member from all 17 MBUs to update the site 365 days per year. To encourage national buy-in and consistent updating, the project was presented at a number of national forums and key conferences, and utilised national networks, peer supporters, and third sector agencies such as the Maternal Mental Health alliance to spread the word. We also asked the MBUs who were consistently updating from the start to share their learning.

Take a look at the resource for yourself at: www.nhswebbeds.co.uk

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So far WebBeds has attracted a lot of praise, including being cited by NHS Digital as an example of technology being used to provide a healthcare solution. It’s also attracted plenty of positive user comments:

“Webbeds has made the referral process easier and quicker for both referrers and women needing a bed. It has saved my staff time and we can repatriate women more quickly to their local unit as we can see at a glance when a bed becomes available,” said Theresa Appleford, Team Leader Winchester MBU

“It’s really helpful to be able to signpost other teams to WebBeds, such as Crisis teams and Acute Mental Health Teams who are often assessing women requiring admission. It has saved a lot of time that was previously wasted in phone calls back and forth seeking information which is now all in one place,” said Jacqui Bell Team Leader, Hampshire Perinatal Service.

Further acclaim was to follow when the project was shortlisted as a finalist at the prestigious HSJ Awards 2018, under the category 'Using Technology to Improve Efficiency'.

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