Plans to fine social services for delaying patient discharges from
hospital have been put on hold for at least six months.
The Department of Health has confirmed that it will be proposing “a
further six months preparation period” before the Community Care
(Delayed Discharges) Bill is implemented. It would move the start
date from 1 April to 1 October.
This move followed a vote in the House of Lords this week calling
for the start date to be put back to after April 2004.
However, a DoH spokesperson said the issue was “too important to be
put off for a year” and that the extra six-month preparation period
was “an important compromise”.
“We must keep the momentum going in order to build on the good
progress that has already been made in reducing delayed discharge
from hospital,” said the spokesperson.
“To do otherwise will be a disservice to those people in an acute
hospital bed when they are ready to be discharged to more
The bill is now expected to move between the House of Commons and
the Lords until an agreement is reached.
Older people’s charity Help the Aged said a six-month delay was not
enough and that at least a year was needed to use the new money
that social services departments would be receiving from the
government next April.
Glenys Jones, chairperson of the Association of Directors of Social
Services older people’s committee, would also prefer a 12-month
delay. In the meantime, she said, the extra DoH money – £100m
a year for three years – could be released now to start building
“In six months you could do the work around home care services and
equipment and adaptations but you need money to invest in capacity.
To build capacity in residential care, a year would be better,” she
Lord Clement-Jones, Liberal Democrat health spokesperson in the
Lords, said the vote had shown “how few friends” the bill had.
“If we could kill the bill we would but, at the very minimum, we
have managed to give local authorities time to implement the
unsatisfactory provisions of the bill,” he said.