Bed blocking 1

According to new findings from Age UK, there have been 2.5 million lost bed days in the NHS between the last General Election and the upcoming one on the 12th of December.

Between the last General Election on the 8th of June 2017 and the upcoming Election on the 12th of December 2019, new Age UK analysis finds that lost bed days in the NHS due to a lack of social care will have topped the 2.5 million mark. These ‘social care delayed discharges’ have cost the NHS a total of £587 million, or £27,000 every hour, Age UK has revealed.

When someone is medically fit to be discharged but has to remain in hospital due to a delayed transfer of care, each day they spend unnecessarily in hospital is recorded as a delayed day.

One of the major reasons for a delayed transfer of care is a lack of social care support in the community, either at home or in a care home, which prevents people from getting back out into the community safely. This can lead to “bed blocking”, whereby older people occupy beds unnecessarily as there is no social care support available to them.

Delayed transfers of care are costly to the NHS and can lead to harmful consequences such as muscle loss and less chance of making a full recovery, Age UK notes.

The average number of people kept in hospital after they were ready to be discharged because of inadequate social care since the last Election was 2,750 every day, the research shows. These delayed transfers of care were mostly older people.

Age UK says that these shocking figures show just how damaging the delay in fixing social care is, adding significant financial pressure to the NHS and with many older people being let down by having to stay in hospital for considerably longer than necessary.

In light of its findings, the charity is calling on whichever political party forms the next Government to make overhauling social care and putting it on a sustainable financial footing for the future its top domestic policy priority.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, commented: “As we head into Winter, the time when the NHS is under maximum pressure, it is important for everyone to recognise just how much harder their job is being made by the lack of social care.

“It is appalling that 2.5 million bed days will have been lost to the NHS between the last Election and this one, simply because there is not nearly enough social care available to allow older people to be safely discharged. The waste of money this represents is staggering, coming in at more than half a billion pounds, but the human cost is arguably even greater, with many older people finding this means their recovery and rehabilitation is seriously delayed or in the worst cases put out of reach altogether.”

She added that delayed transfers of care have a knock-on effect for everyone as people cannot access hospital beds even when they’re desperately needed.

“We cannot go on treating the public in this way and leaving the NHS in an intolerably difficult situation,” Caroline continued. “That’s why it is imperative that whichever party forms the next Government, it takes decisive action to rebuild our social care system and put it on an even financial keel. This ought to be its number one domestic policy priority.

“We don’t want to face another Winter during which there are genuine worries that our hospitals will be unable to cope because of the lack of social care, and first we have to get safely through this one. People working in health and care are doing everything they can to help and are keeping their fingers crossed about that.”

The social care “crisis” in the UK has made countless headlines, stating that the current system is almost at breaking point and that something needs to be done urgently.

In July, shocking figures revealed by Alzheimer’s Society showed that people with dementia have had to spend nearly £15 billion of their own money on social care since the last General Election in 2017.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has also voiced its concerns about the state of social care in the UK, stating that based on current spending, a UK funding gap of £18 billion will open up by 2030/31. It said that this means people will continue to “fall through the cracks of a failing social care system.”

Commenting on Age UK’s latest research, Sally Copley, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Yet again, here’s compelling and indisputable evidence of the social care crisis gripping this country. The failings in the social care system are pushing families with dementia to breaking point, and leaving too many vulnerable people stuck in hospital with nowhere else to go.

“We hear tragic stories through our Fix Dementia Care campaign – a mother who spent years in hospital while being turned away from care home after care home, a woman who spent two months on a bed in a corridor because she couldn’t get a care home place.

“Winter is well on its way, and pressure on hospitals is only going to get worse. Whoever forms a new Government cannot hide from this crisis a minute longer – they must commit to both immediate investment and longer term radical reform that ensures everyone with dementia can access good quality social care, instead of being stranded in hospital.

“Fixing this problem is not just the humane thing to do, it is the smart thing to do – it’s clearly ridiculous to not address it when it is more expensive to keep a person with dementia in hospital than for them to get the care they need and deserve.”

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