Cuts to social care budgets mean older Lancashire residents are stuck in hospital longer than they need to.
Elderly people are languishing in hospital unnecessarily because government cuts combined with rising costs have left the social care system struggling to cope.
Up to 38 per cent of delayed hospital discharges are caused by a lack of adequate places in social and community care for people to go to. Known as ‘bed blocking’ – when a patient remains in hospital because there’s nowhere else for them to go - it puts pressure on NHS resources and strips people of their independence and dignity, according to social care experts.
There are now calls for “adequate resources” to help care homes in particular to carry on providing a high-level service.
“It’s so important to make sure social care has the funding it needs,” said Gill Reynolds, director at Hillcroft Nursing Homes, which operates six care homes in Lancashire.
“Adequate resources are needed to attract and retain appropriate staff and enable us to provide the right environment for residents to enjoy a good quality of life,” she added.
Independent health think-tank The King’s Fund published a report last year which said central government had reduced its funding to local government in real terms by 37 per cent between 2010/11 and 2015/16.
It’s created a knock-on effect, with cuts being passed onto care homes. This, coupled with a rise in costs has led to 380 homes being declared insolvent since 2010.
“Delayed discharges are an unnecessary drain on NHS resources,” said Louise Mattinson, who is also a Hillcroft Nursing Home director.
“Delivering safe and effective care that the elderly deserve needs proper funding.
“In our experience patients in hospital who have had long term stays can end up having reduced mobility and compromised independence.
“This is not a criticism of the care provided within the NHS but of the process which results in patients staying in hospital longer than necessary.”
Hillcroft Nursing Homes was established 26 years ago, and runs six facilities in the Lancaster and Morecambe area. It recently announced plans to branch out into residential care, which would provide elderly users with a more independent style of accommodation combined with long term care.
Health secretary Jeremey Hunt has admitted there were 2.25m delayed discharges last year, up 24.5 per cent from 1.81m the 12 months. He said: “No-one should stay in a hospital bed longer than necessary: it removes people’s dignity, reduces their quality of life, leads to poorer health and care outcomes for people, and is more expensive for the taxpayer.”
He has pledged to bring the number of delayed transfers of care to no more than 3.5 per cent of all hospital beds by September, however his plan to financially penalise councils missing the target have been slammed by the Local Government Association.
Chairman of its Community Wellbeing Board, Izzi Seccombe, said: “Councils are doing all they can to reduce delays in getting patients out of hospital and back into the community.
“But social care is about far more than alleviating pressure on health. It is a vital and essential service in its own right.”
The rapid increase in so-called “bed blocking” was the “most visible manifestation of pressures on health and social care budgets,” said the Kings Fund report, Social care for older people: Home truths.
“This is undoubtedly driven by funding pressures on both services and exacerbated by workforce shortages. Social care, local authorities, NHS providers and commissioners must work together to address a problem that imposes a significant cost on the NHS and is taking an unacceptable toll on older people, their carers and families,” it said.
For more information on Hillcroft Nursing Homes, go to www.hillcrofthome.co.uk or call 01524 734433.