Nursing homes can play a key role in helping hospitals discharge older patients as soon as they no longer need acute treatment says the Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA).
RNHA chief executive Frank Ursell called on the NHS to work more systematically with the adult social care sector.
“By working together in a more coordinated manner than is generally the case right now, the NHS and social care would ensure a smooth, swift and efficient transfer of older people from hospital into more appropriate care environments,” he said.
“This would help prevent the daily and progressive loss of muscle function and mobility that inevitably occurs when a frail older person is inactive in a hospital bed, as well as removing them from the risk of hospital acquired infections.”
Reflecting on the projected 20% increase in older people in England over the next ten years, Mr Ursell said the delayed discharge problems being experienced by NHS hospitals were likely to get much worse without the comprehensive changes being recommended by the NAO and without a massive strengthening of genuine partnership working by all the agencies involved at local level.
“Ultimately, the key responsibility for overseeing change lies with the government,” he concluded. “So let us look to ministers to lead from the front by investing in the care services older people need. Put simply, they have to increase funding to local authorities for adult social care, not only to mitigate the effects of past cuts but also to take account of projected demographic change.
“If they fail to do that, the system will carry on creaking and groaning with little or no prospect of alleviating the pressures on hospitals. The ball is most definitely in the government’s court. For the moment, frail older people are caught in the middle of financial nightmare of ministers’ own making.”