A leading doctor has criticised the government for threatening
to penalise local authorities for delayed discharges from
Dr Ian Bogle, chairperson of council at the British Medical
Association, said it would be unfair to penalise social care for
bed-blocking while rewarding the NHS for its progress on reducing
His comments followed the post-budget announcement by health
secretary Alan Milburn that councils would be expected to reimburse
hospitals in cases where patients fit for discharge could not then
Following consultation, the penalties could be introduced next
summer at a reported rate of up to £150 for each delayed
discharge per day.
In this year’s budget, social services were promised a 6 per
cent increase in resources between 2003 and 2006.
However, Dr Bogle said given the long-term underfunding of
social services, local authorities must be given enough time to use
extra resources to enable a reduction in delayed discharges.
It is also feared such a reduction might be difficult because
the extra social services funding has not been ring-fenced.
Dr Bogle suggested moves to integrate health and social services
would fail if the government’s plans went ahead.
He added: ‘If the government is hell bent upon these penalties,
however, then we are quite certain that the investment must predate
any penalties…I do not want to see that part of social service
work underfunded because of an initiative about bed-blocking.’