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Britain's care sector is ‘broken’ as nearly 4,000 hospital patients a day suffer discharge delays

BRITAIN’S privatised care sector is broken, NHS campaigners have warned as figures today reveal nearly 4,000 long-stay hospital patients are not being discharged due to rehabilitation and home care delays every day.

Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) urged the government to “properly integrate” the fragmented care sector within the NHS  as the first ever analysis of NHS England discharge delay data was released.

Health chiefs called for “appropriate funding” to end the “capacity crunch of staff and beds in social care and community health services.”

KONP co-chairman Dr John Puntis told the Morning Star: “It should come as absolutely no surprise that the privatised, fragmented and largely broken social care sector is inadequate to cope with the increasingly complex needs of our ageing population. 

“A lack of bed capacity in this sector directly impacts the NHS from the front door onwards meaning ambulances cannot unload patients as the system is stacked up due to an inability to discharge.

“This therefore has a direct impact on the capacity of the NHS generally, and must be addressed. As such KONP is calling for the government to consider a properly funded national care, support and independent living service that is properly integrated with the NHS in order to improve the experience of health and social care for all.”

For patients in hospital for at least 14 days, the latest NHS England data showed a daily average of 2,033 were stuck in hospital waiting for resources to assess and begin care at home last month.

Another 1,791 were delayed due to a lack of rehabilitation beds in a community hospital or similar setting. 

A further 421 needed a therapy decision to discharge, 390 were held up for medical reasons such as writing the discharge summary, and 234 were waiting for community equipment and adaptations to housing.

And 98 patients awaited transport while 44 needed medicines to take home.

Responding to the figures, Miriam Deakin, director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, the membership organisation for NHS trusts in England, said: “Delayed discharge is caused by several factors including a capacity crunch of staff and beds in social care and community health services — both of which need appropriate funding.

“Investment in rehabilitation and intermediate care could also help more people stay independent in the community, reduce avoidable hospital admissions and ensure that after a hospital stay, patients can return home or to a community setting in a timely way with appropriate support.

“The short-term national funding pots we’ve seen recently cannot offer sustainable solutions. A fully funded long-term workforce plan for social care, accompanied by debate about long term funding and reform, would put the sector on a sustainable footing.”

A spokesman for the NHS added: “Delayed discharges put considerable pressure on the NHS, which is why the health service has been working closely with colleagues in local authorities on a range of initiatives to send more patients home when they are medically fit to leave.”

Overall, an average of 12,334 hospital beds in England per day last month were occupied by people ready to be discharged — down from 12,597 in May and 12,760 in April. The equivalent figure for June 2022 was 11,590.

The analysis by PA News Agency was released on the fourth anniversary since former prime minister Boris Johnson pledged to fix the social care crisis “once and for all” in his maiden speech as prime minister. 

Charities today accused the Tories of taking the most vulnerable on a “wild goose chase” as the promise remains unfulfilled.

The Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are working to ensure patients leave hospital as soon as they are medically fit, and the number of patients each day who are ready to be discharged but still in hospital has reduced by 2,200 in England since January.”


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