Social care squeeze leaves thousands more patients stranded in hospital care

Around 30,000 more people were forced to wait in hospital while their care was transferred into the community in February 2017 compared to the same month a year ago, figures released by NHS England have revealed.

There were almost 185,000 delayed days in February 2017 compared to 158,131 in February last year, and the number of delayed days per calendar day went up from 5,453 to 6,602 in the same time period.

Councils claimed they are working hard to reduce the amount of time patients spent in hospital at a time when social care services and council budgets are stretched thin.

Vice chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, Cllr Linda Thomas, said: “No one's elderly parent, grandparents or friends should be left unnecessarily in a hospital bed, when they could be treated in the comfort and dignity of their own home.

“Councils are absolutely committed to reducing the level of delayed transfers of care from the NHS and are working with providers and hospitals to help reduce pressures on health services.”

Cllr Thomas added that across the country, nearly six out of 10 people delayed in hospital were unable to leave because they require further NHS services, with around a third awaiting support from council social care.

“The scale of underfunding councils have faced in recent years is placing the care provider market under huge pressure, making it more difficult to discharge people from hospital back to their homes and communities,” she argued.

“But while reducing delayed transfers of care is a significant challenge for both councils and the NHS, this is by no means the only issue facing health and social care, and it’s important it does not become the basis for which overall performance is judged.”

The LGA board vice chair also reiterated her organisation’s claim that while the new funding of £2bn for social care over three years was a step in the right direction, short-term pressures still remained and the need to reform and properly fund the sector was now greater than ever.

“The government's Green Paper provides the opportunity to begin a much-needed meaningful national conversation about how, as a society, we should best support people of all ages with care and support needs in our communities,” concluded Cllr Thomas.

And Margaret Willcox, president elect of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), said that whilst it was concerning that the number of delayed discharges attributable to social care had risen over the last year, it was also encouraging to see there were 500 fewer delays in February because people were waiting for care packages in their own home.

“Social workers and care staff have done a fantastic job addressing winter pressures despite the historic underfunding of social care which has put the sector in crisis,” she stated.

“Without sufficient care at home, people will continue to be admitted to hospital, which will increase pressures on hospital staff already struggling to cope with demand.”

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