Delays in releasing older patients following hospital treatment is costing the NHS £820m per year, according to a recent report from the National Audit Office.
According to official estimates, hospitals in the UK lost around 1.15m days of bed availability during 2015 alone, representing a 31% increase on 2013. However, auditors were quick to question this figure, estimating that the actual figure is more likely to be around 2.7m.
The main driver for the additional expenditure associated with bed-blocking is a failure to effectively transfer people into a suitable care arrangement within the required time frame. Approximately 85% of delayed hospital discharges involve patients aged 65 or older.
The report highlighted a series of contributing factors that are likely to have exacerbated the current situation, including:
Reduced local authority spending on adult social care, which has fallen by 10% since 2009 – 10
Lack of financial incentives for community health and local authorities to limit or decrease discharge delays
Difficulties recruiting adequately trained carers
Meg Hillier, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, commented: “For the sake of older patients and the financial sustainability of the NHS, both hospitals and local social services have to get their act together to discharge people more quickly when it is safe to do so. If this is not sorted, all the agencies face an unsustainable situation of rising costs, rising demand for care, and funding cuts.”
As reported by The Good Care Group in May, public health bodies are also under fire for high rates of premature hospital discharge, with more than 6,000 formal complaints submitted to the ombudsman in 2015.
The NAO has asked the Department of Health and NHS to respond to the report with their vision for ending increasing delays and structuring a health service to meet the demands of a growing older population.
Fiona Lowry, our CEO, said: “This report touches on the difficulties faced by families trying to arrange care for a loved one after a hospital stay. Live-in care helps to overcome the difficulties associated with hospital discharge, helping people to leave hospital at the earliest possible opportunity. They won’t have to wait for a vacancy to open up, or go through a lengthy sign up process. Our carers are trained to specialise in specific conditions and will help to re-arrange the home accordingly, ensuring that the healing process continues after a patient has been discharged.”