Fit-to-leave patients and the growing hospital crisis
There have been several stories in the national press lately about the A&E crisis and the so-called ‘bed blockers’.
According to a CQC report from last August, The Royal Sussex County Hospital saw almost a threefold rise in the number of elderly patients medically fit for discharge but occupying beds because there was nowhere else for them to go.
Hospitals say they are working closely with social services and community trusts to increase the number of respite care beds available to ease the pressures but with cuts to social care for older people and an increasingly ageing population it is a big challenge. It’s difficult to implement change when there’s no money available.
Additionally, some would argue that this delayed discharge problem is also caused by families who aren’t being more responsible for their elderly relatives. And others, like Deborah Corr in a recent Guardian article, believe that it’s part of a larger problem in how society negatively views older people as ‘a bundle of sad, expensive, social-policy problems, rather than people with lives worth living to the full’.
Of course, using the term ‘bed blocker’ doesn’t help in it’s insinuation that the person doing the blocking is the one to blame and with so many factors contributing to the crisis, it seems daunting to try and find solutions but they do need to be found.
On one level, ‘the media must provoke our politicians to take action, rather than imply that the situation is mainly the fault of the patients and their families’ according to Edmund Stubbs, Healthcare Researcher, Civitas.
On another level we need better social care for the elderly, and although this does require funding, surely the long-term benefits will be greater if addressed properly. As Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, put it: ‘It is crazy to waste expensive NHS resources in this way, when it would be much most cost effective and better for older people to fund social care properly instead.’
Private care companies such as ours can help by providing needed support and services, but unless we can meet our own budgetary responsibilities and requirements, we would fail to exist. Companies like ours offer a fantastic service and great resource for elderly people but there does need to be more funding for those who need it.
Ultimately, we think this crisis is best summed up by local solicitors, Martin Searle, who put the patient and their rights first and have this to say:
‘People who are stuck in hospital with care and support needs, who should be back at home with a care package that helps them keep or recover their independence (ultimately reducing their reliance on the NHS in a crisis) have a right to assessments, care and support planning.
‘This right exists regardless of how that care package is to be funded. It is a right that often seems to be overlooked or forgotten about. The Government needs to resource this assessment and planning stage properly, to reduce bed-blocking, and enhance opportunities to return to more independent living.’