Social care cuts cause hospital bed blocking
Cuts to social care funding has led to an increase in hospital bed blocking, according to a new report from the charity, Age UK
Social care funding cuts have led to an increased number of older people blocking hospital beds, said Age UK. According to new research from the charity since 2010 1,928,255 bed days in hospitals have been wasted by patients unable to be discharged because of issues in the social care sector, costing the NHS £526m.
The research showed that some elderly patients have spent up to 30 days in hospital, despite being well enough to leave. The average wait for a patient needing hand rails or ramps fitted in their home has risen by 11.5 per cent to 27.3 days. Social care packages also take 5 per cent longer to arrange than in 2010, taking an average of 28.6 days. Keeping patients in hospital beds is undoubtedly expensive. The average cost of a residential home bed is around £530, compared to £1,900 for an NHS hospital bed.
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director said: “The marked rise since 2010 in the length of time people are being forced to linger in hospital because of a delayed assessment, care home place, home care package or home adaptation is an outcome of the crisis in social care. It is crazy to waste expensive NHS resources in this way, when it would be much more cost effective and better for older people to fund social care properly instead.
“Waiting in hospital a month or more for social care to be organised can also undermine an older person’s chances of recovery and be profoundly upsetting for them and their families too. Investing in social care would unblock the log jam and help our hospitals to work more efficiently. A properly resourced care system would transform many older people’s lives for the better and would make financial sense as well. And just think how many more people of all ages could get speedier treatment in hospital if the social care support was there for the patients who can’t be discharged without it.
“The best thing the Government could do today is to say they will set the national eligibility criteria for social care at a generous level and commit the increased funding this requires. Then we could have a reasonable expectation that these terrible delayed discharge figures can be improved.”
Councils are facing increasing pressure to decrease social care budgets by £1.2bn as part of wider austerity measures. To deal with this most councils have also tightened the eligibility criteria for social care assistance. This means the number of elderly people who can be supported by social care services has decreased, despite the growth of the ageing population.
Under the new budget cuts, older people who have trouble with the basic activities of daily living are now classified as having ‘low’ or ‘moderate’ needs so do not qualify for social care help. The lack of support leaves many people at risk, potentially leading to hospital admissions. According to figures from the Local Government Association (LGA) most councils only provide social care help to people classified as having substantial or critical needs.
A spokesman for the LGA, said: “This report highlights why the LGA has been calling for Government to make a five year commitment to join up funding between health and social care and provide the certainty and stability required to transform care services for the people who need and rely on them.
“We have consistently argued for more money for adult social care. Both councils and the NHS are committed to providing the best possible care, so it is vital that we are working closely together with greater ambition and a sense of common purpose if we are serious about making every effort to create a care system that will improve people’s lives.”