Age UK, the charity championing the rights and welfare of our ageing population, has revealed that elderly patients have spend 2.5 million days over the last 5 years stuck in hospital beds. The reason for this is that there is nowhere else for them to go.
The issue of lack of social services for patients who are well enough to be discharged, but require some form of care at home, is plaguing the NHS, and it is a problem that is beyond their control. Once a patient is in hospital, the doctors and nurses are responsible for their welfare, and cannot discharge a patient if it would be unsafe for them to do so. Many elderly patients will require care when they leave hospital; be it in a nursing home, or their own home with support from social services. If there is not a bed or funding to provide those needs outside of the ward, then the patient must stay in hospital until there is availability.
The result is a shortage of hospital beds for new patients who are probably in greater immediate need, not to mention the upset caused to the elderly patient who would rather not be in hospital. Caroline Abrahams from Age UK also points out “older people are more likely to be readmitted because their recovery stalls” when adequate services are not available out in society.
“Everyone agrees the way to go is to integrate social care and health much more effectively” she says, “but unfortunately our report shows we’ve got a long way to go before really the reality lives up to the rhetoric”.
Heledd Wyn, Associate in Clarke Willmott’s Elderly Care team, comments “It is hoped that with the introduction of the Care Act and its overriding objective of ‘wellbeing’ that there will, in the future, be greater integration between health and social care services. The aim of the Act is to promote wellbeing and this will need to include greater understanding of the overlap between health and social care and the needs of the individual”.
It costs around £2,000 a week to fund a hospital bed, whereas the average cost for residential care is £560 per week. As with everything, the barrier to resolving the issue is to expand the availability of social services and improve the working relationship between them and the health services is money. An NHS spokesperson said “we continue to need strong joint working … which is being further helped by the extra £35million allocated to local council for social care”.
If you, or anyone you know has been affected by poor care and medical negligence, contact our specialist solicitors on 0800 316 8892 (James.Edmondson@clarkewillmott.com).