By Debbie le Quesne

Care sector insight: Scandal of the ‘lost’ NHS beds

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In its leader column Brunswicks’ Heathcare Review, perhaps one of the most reliable industry barometers, outlines the latest challenges to the care sector.

It’s frustrating reading as the piece catalogues recent event that affect all care providers.

Here goes: The Department of Health announced that some 80,000 bed-days are ‘lost’ to the NHS as a result of delayed discharges. That’s an awful lot of beds and doubles some could have been filled in the private sector.

Brunswicks point out that the bedsare mostly occupied by older people who have been certified by the medical clinicians to be fit enough to be discharged from hospital – however, there is no place to discharge them to.

“For example, there is a delay in finding a care home bed, or perhaps putting together a ‘package of support’ to enable them to return to live in their own homes,” the leader says.

An interesting point is that under Tony Blair, he Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Act 2003 stated that councils can be charged £200 per day for people fit for discharge but for whom no place can be found within three days. It equates to £16m that the NHS could charge councils.

On seeing the figures I was shocked, but my attention was drawn to a question posed by the article whether the fees are actually paid.

If they are, no wonder councils are struggling with social care budgets.

There are 152 councils in England. Hmm.

The National Minimum Wage is the focus for the Dom Care sector as you’d expect with the spotlight on a report from HM Revenue and Customs stating 48 per cent of employers which it looked at had fallen foul of the regulations.

Brunswicks warns of further scandals as providers’ prices are pushed further downwards by commissioners.

“At the end of the day, the people who will ‘pay-for-poor-pricing’ will be the old and the vulnerable,” the piece says and I agree.

There surely needs to be a change of culture here.

An finally . . . and I quote: “It is right that profits should be made, for the most part care provided by the independent sector in all of its forms is less expensive than councils doing it for themselves.”

Do I hear and Amen?

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