The rise in bed blocking has gone hand in hand with the chancellor's year on year cuts to councils' budgets says GMB.
GMB, the union for care workers, has welcomed a report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee linking a lack of available social care to the Government’s inability to combat rising numbers of healthy people stuck in hospital. (See notes to editors for a link to the report).
The report also found that delays had an adverse effect on elderly patients’ health, potentially causing them to require a greater level of care after leaving the hospital. The National Audit Office (NAO) estimates that the delays cost the NHS £800m a year. MPs on the committee are calling for new strategies to reduce the amount of delays.
In June, a GMB report found that the number of days lost to healthy people taking up beds in hospitals – also known as bed blocking – had increased by 32% in English hospitals in the last five years.
Elly Baker, GMB national officer, said "Bed-blocking, which is a millstone around the neck of the NHS, has got considerably worse since the Tories took control of the nation’s finances.
Bed-blocking is now a problem made in Downing Street and GMB calls on the new Prime Minister to make a priority pledge that this will be addressed as a matter of urgency. The rise in bed blocking has gone hand in hand with the chancellor's year on year cuts to councils' budgets.
The severe cuts in local authorities’ social services provision is the major contributory factor for bed-blocking getting worse. Councils have had to shunt the problem to the NHS. Councils have not been able to accept the patients from the NHS because they have been starved of funds.
Bed blocking is the predictable result of a government policy which is demonstrably penny wise and pound foolish. As government underfunding sends social care down the pan, so the NHS is dragged with it: Bed blocking rises, we spend money we don't need to spend keeping people in hospital who shouldn't be there and, to cap it all, make many of them sicker by doing so. A hospital is not an appropriate place for these patients to be left unnecessarily.
Proper investment now in the residential care sector, which is willing and ready to help with the bed blocking crisis in the NHS, is cheaper in the long run, better for those who should be discharged and frees beds for those who actually need to be in hospital. Delayed discharge is damaging the health of patients and costing the NHS £800m every year to do so.
The government has refused to fund the NHS fairly and in recent years, health spending has fallen well short of GDP. As the fifth richest country, it's dire how our old and vulnerable are being treated.”
Contact: Elly Baker on 07918 768773 or GMB press office on 07970 863411 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
1 Public Accounts Committee report Discharging Older People from Acute Hospitals inquiry:
‘Increasingly, older patients are experiencing delays in being discharged from hospital. Such delays are bad for their health and increase the level of care they may need after leaving hospital. Unnecessary delays are also bad for the financial sustainability of the NHS and local government and the National Audit Office (NAO) has estimated a gross cost of around £800 million a year for the NHS of older patients delayed in hospital when they no longer benefit from being there. While it is clear there have been improvements and many in the NHS and local government are putting in significant efforts, the Department of Health (the Department) and NHS England rely too easily on differing local circumstances as a catch-all excuse for not securing improvement in performance. They should be doing more to increase the pace of integration and make local accountability systems more effective. Those areas which are doing best are the ones where all the local system owns all of the problem but this practice is all too rare.
The Department, NHS England and NHS Improvement have failed to address longstanding barriers to the health and social care sectors sharing information and taking up good practice. The result is unacceptable variation in local performance. While we recognise there are significant pressures on adult social care and NHS funding, NHS England shows a striking poverty of ambition in believing that holding delays to the current inflated level would be a satisfactory achievement. Patients and the NHS have a right to expect better.’