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Four million bed days lost due to ‘ridiculous’ care situation

Almost four million bed days have been lost since 2011 due to problems putting patients into community care once they have received hospital treatment.

A study by Age UK has concluded that the number of days lost is still on the rise with patients struggling to access post-hospital care in the community or in their homes.

The largest increase was between 2015-16 and 2016-17 when a 27% increase was recorded in the number of beds being taken by people who could be moved to other arrangements.

In fact, in the last year more than 950,000 days were lost, which has an estimated cost to the system of £173m.

One factor could be the prevalence of older people staying within the community rather than in specialised homes. Since 2011/12 the number of ageing patients stuck in hospitals has more than doubled.

Age UK suggests that the problem has a specific impact on older people because of the changes in post-hospital care and says the issue puts patients at risk of psychological stress, infections and loss of mobility.

“These delayed discharge figures show the disastrous impact of our failing social care system on the NHS, as well as on older people themselves,” commented Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK.

“Increasing numbers are being marooned in their hospital beds, losing muscle tone and risking infection when they are medically fit enough to leave, often because of acute shortages of social care, especially of the home visiting kind.

“There is no doubt that some older people’s chances of a good recovery are being totally undermined as a result.”

The report suggests that this issue is causing an enormous strain on the NHS. It argues that a typical bed day costs £2,089 and £2,532 a week, compared to an average of £519 for a place in residential care.

“To add insult to injury, this ridiculous and sometimes tragic situation cost the tax payer over £173m last year alone, money that would have been much better spent giving older people the social care they need,” Abrahams continued.

“This is why the government must stand by its pledge to bring forward proposals soon for putting social care on a sustainable footing.

“In the medium and longer term we need new mechanisms so people can pool their risk of developing care needs, but with winter approaching the immediate imperative is an injection of resources into social care and fresh efforts to tackle the galloping delayed discharge crisis that is threatening to engulf our hospitals.”

Bed blocking is an increasing issue within NHS hospitals and with winter approaching, health organisations such as NHS England have called on the government to urgently deal with the problem.

In addition, the King’s Fund recently warned that the continuing decrease in available beds was “unrealistic”, citing the halving of beds in the last 30 years.

Top image: beerkoff

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