Almost three million hospital bed days have been lost between June 2010 and January 2016, at a cost of £910 million, according to a new report by Age UK.
Findings for the charity reveal that between just two years – Jan-Dec 2014 and Jan-Dec 2015 – there has been a 28.4 per cent increase in the number of hospital days lost due to a lack of social care provision available for people being discharged from hospital. This increase came in the first year of the Better Care Fund when it was hoped that pooled funding would reduce delayed discharges.
Cuts to community health and social care services have meant the NHS has wasted bed-days while patients wait for the right care and support in the right place to become available.
Age UK says there has been a 3.8 per cent increase in bed days lost awaiting a nursing home placement or availability since 2014 and a 9.2 per cent increase in bed days lost awaiting a residential home placement.
Calls to Age UK’s free Advice Line on delayed discharge have almost doubled in the last three years. The Charity argues that a combination of acute shortages of good health and care services to help older people recover, poor co-ordination and sometimes downright buck passing between the NHS and care services, and a lack of information and general confusion about what’s available and who is responsible for paying for care are the main problems behind most delayed discharges of older people from hospital wards.
Age UK’s charity director, Caroline Abrahams, said: “These statistics and our accompanying report describe the slow motion car crash that occurs when you underfund the social care services that allow older people to be safely discharged from hospital – this at a time when demand for such services is constantly rising because our population is ageing.
“This awful situation represents a staggering waste of public funds that also hurts vulnerable older people and their families. It is why we believe the Government should urgently look again at the funding being provided for these kinds of services, acknowledge the need for substantially more investment, and take action to plug the all too obvious funding gaps.”