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By Debbie le Quesne

Bed block figures shame the social care cuts policy

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NHS figures released in the New Year show that almost 18,500 patients spent the festive period in hospital even though they were fit to go home.

Why? Because there was just not a big enough social care pool of community providers for support care package to be put in place. Bed blocking is back in the news – in reality, it probably has never gone away.

More than 18,490 “delayed transfers of care” were logged between 19 December and New Year’s Day at the cost a whopping £4.8m. Just how much social care would that buy?

The cost of this restriction on hospitals functioning normally surely must be a strong lever in the government’s budget setting for social care. It costs the NHS about £260 a day to keep someone in hospital and the 18,490 beds occupied by those safe to discharge is thought to be the highest total ever.

Here we have elderly people trapped in hospital and frankly, the blame must lie with government. The coalition has restricted business development in the care sector with its fiscal stranglehold on funding and its attempts to make access to care so much harder.

It is cabinet that have decided to trounce social care, squeezing its budget unmercifully and the bed blocking is yet another symptom of chronic underfunding failure.

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, was quoted in The Guardian as saying: “Rather than rising to the challenge of the ageing society, we are going backwards, and care of older people is getting worse.”

I’m sure Ministers would not agree that their actions have cause such a distressing figure but I know plenty of people who do.

Caroline Abrahams, director with charity Age UK condemned the fact that high quality social care was “being stripped to the bone.”

Research at the tail end of last year by the London School of Economics found 483,000 people had either lost their home care support or were no longer eligible to claim it, compared with 2008.

The solution to this mess, according to a Department of Health spokesman quoted in The Guardian online, is “joined-up services” so that “more people can be treated closer to home.”

“We are transforming out-of-hospital care by bringing back the link between GPs and their older patients and investing £3.8bn to join up health and social-care services,” the newspaper reported.

Hmm . . . £3.8bn: Has anyone at the sharp end of social care seen any sight of this to help streamline, expand our services and develop future-proof business?

I thought not.

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