There can be good reasons for 'bed blocking'
21:00 GMT, 29 September 2012
The horrible label ‘bed blockers’ – elderly patients well enough to go home but with nowhere to go – surfaced again last week as the Department of Health said £4 million a week is spent on these individuals.
The label fails to recognise there might be a vulnerable, frightened and unsettled person in that bed.
Moreover, to call the patient a ‘blocker’ implies they are to blame, when there are many managerial reasons for a person not being discharged when they should be.
The label of 'blocker' fails to recognise there might be a vulnerable, frightened and unsettled person in that bed (file picture)
Why are patients kept in hospital when they’re well
They can be waiting for services to be set up before they are discharged safely – for example social services or home rehabilitation.
Discharging them without this in place could be unsafe. Circumstances can change while the patient is in hospital and they may be waiting for a residential or nursing care home place.
Isn’t there a more efficient way to organise this
Due to cutbacks in social care and community services, there can be delays organising such services. This has always been the case but it is worsening. In many areas, there are no intermediate beds or halfway houses to stay in, so in-patient beds get taken up.
How can I prevent my elderly relative staying in hospital unnecessarily
Make sure the ward staff are fully aware of how much your relative can cope with at home, and the care the family can realistically provide. While your relative is in hospital, establish what help is available locally through the NHS, social services or charities.
My father is weaker each time he is discharged from hospital. How do I know what care he will need
If someone is admitted with a stroke, for example, it is not easy to anticipate their level of function or their care needs. The hospital must help you with this by organising an assessment with an occupational therapist and a physiotherapist to establish what care your father needs.