By Debbie le Quesne

399,000 extra hospital days – the price of social care cuts

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The National Press has been scaremongering again telling its readers that our care system is “crumbling”.

Whilst I’m aware so much media ‘information’ is politically tweaked, I find myself aligned to its reasoning this time around.

The care system in England has “cost the NHS £669 million over the last five years with hospitals forced to care for elderly patients who could otherwise be discharged,” analysis by Age UK has concluded.

Findings also reveal the NHS lost 2.4 million bed days as a result of “bed-blocking”. Why? Because of a lack of care and support outside hospitals. Now there’s a surprise (not)!

As you’d image the Press has seized on the figures, with the charity concluding the data underlines “the scale of the crisis in the elderly care system and the knock-on effect on institutions like the NHS.”

Cruel cuts to local council budgets, which fund social care for elderly and disabled people, have left the system struggling. Both care providers and service users are feeling the effects.

You’ll may recall my recent attempts to simplify budget research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) which showed that despite brave efforts by councils to protect care services, cost savings and a rapidly ageing population have effectively wiped out 31 per cent of care budgets in five years.

Age UK says NHS figures reveal that patients collectively spent an estimated 399,000 days in hospital while waiting for a place in a care home or nursing to become available in the last year alone. Can you image the cost?

Surely this kind of information is all Mr Cameron needs to evaluate the value of social care.

Delays while patients waited for special handrails or stairlifts to be installed enabling them to carry on living at home added almost 41,400 days to the total.

Let me quote Age UK statistics: “ While an NHS bed costs taxpayers an average £1,925 per week, a typical place in a residential care home costs a more modest £558 per week for a week or £357 for care at home.”

We appear to have penalized social care funding at a catastrophic price, with year on year, more older people being trapped in hospital in ever-greater numbers.

Policymakers desperately need to listen to the facts that are emerging.

Would funding social care properly resolve the bedding crisis in hospitals? Yes.

Would a properly resourced social care system transform many older people’s lives and make sound financial sense long term? Yes.

Would such a move mean a more efficient use of skills and finance within the NHS? Yes.

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