NHS spends 4m a week on elderly who block beds with managers blaming cuts for problems getting worse
Nine in ten health managers fear 'bed blocking' is worse following financial cuts
23:08 GMT, 23 September 2012
The NHS is being forced to spend nearly 4million a week keeping elderly patients in hospital who are well enough to go home, according to a report.
More than nine in ten health service managers fear that the problem of so-called bed-blocking is getting worse following financial cuts.
The figures relate to patients – the majority of whom are elderly – who have to remain in hospital even though doctors have declared them medically fit to be discharged because their local council has not set up the necessary help for them at home.
'Bed blocking' sees mainly elderly patients remaining in hospital even though doctors have declared them fit to be discharged (file picture)
It may be that they have suffered a stroke or have severe dementia and need to be moved into residential care homes.
Others will need their council to arrange extra home help from a carer or have a stair-lift or extra railings installed.
But delays are occurring because many councils are unable to pay for the help immediately as their budgets have been slashed.
This is leading to thousands of elderly patients being effectively trapped on NHS wards. Figures from the Department of Health show that these patients spent 76,000 days a month in hospital unnecessarily last year.
This is up nearly 10 per cent on the previous year with just over 69,000 lost days. Just over 28,300 patients were kept in hospital unnecessarily last year, slightly down on the previous 12 months.
It costs the NHS an average of 255 to keep a patient in a hospital bed overnight.
The report by the NHS Confederation – which represents all organisations in the Health Service – estimates that the phenomenon is costing 545,000 a day – just under 200million a year.
Criticism: Age UK's Michelle Mitchell said the government should show 'vision and courage'
This is more than the Health Service spends treating either skin cancer, lung cancer or patients who have suffered serious burns. And 92 per cent of hospital chief executives, chairmen and other senior managers believe the problem has worsened in the last 12 months, according to the organisation.
Its report warns that the phenomenon has a ‘financial and human cost’ and that council funding for care is not keeping pace with demand.
Increasing numbers of older people are relying on funding, yet at the same time, local authorities are having their budgets slashed.
Jo Webber of the NHS Confederation said: ‘The Health Service cannot keep on picking up the pieces of a broken social care system.’
Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, called for the Government to show ‘vision and courage’ to tackle the problem.
‘The social care system has been under-funded for years, failing to keep pace with the rising demand of an ageing population,’ she said.
‘The Government needs to show vision and courage and put in place the fair and sustainable funding that’s required to ensure older people both now and in the future get the care they desperately need.’
'The social care system has been under-funded for years, failing to keep pace with the rising demand of an ageing population.'
David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: ‘As resources become increasingly stretched, closer and more effective working between councils and the NHS will be an essential part of how we look after our ageing population.
‘However, there is unquestionably an immediate and growing funding crisis in adult social care which needs to be urgently addressed, alongside wider reform to the system to make it simpler and fairer.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We are already providing 7.2billion over four years so that local authorities have sufficient funds to protect people’s access to care and support.’
Earlier this year a separate report by the NHS Confederation urged medical staff to stop describing such patients as ‘bed-blockers’, saying this is a derogatory term.
The NHS’s official description for bed-blocking is a ‘delayed transfer of care’.