Welsh hospitals face bed-blocking crisis as care home places dwindle

A fall in the number of care home places in Welsh cities is
pushing up the number of delayed transfers of care from

On a single day in March one in 10 of Cardiff’s hospital beds was
taken up by patients awaiting transfer to community care
To tackle this problem the council and Welsh assembly have funded a
£500,000 package to keep open an 80-bed home that was due to
close in October.

A report by the assembly’s audit committee found that between
November 2003 and June 2004, 723 beds each day in Wales were
occupied by a delayed discharge patient.

It blames a drop in care home places caused by the low fees offered
by councils to care home owners.

Hugh Ross, chief executive of the Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust, said
care home capacity in the capital had reduced by 15 per cent in
recent years, while 10 of the 13 remaining homes no longer accepted
council-funded patients because the fees were too low.

Ross said: “It leaves patients having to top up fees themselves.
This leads to long waiting lists for the three homes that accept
local authority rates, thus reinforcing the widespread problem of
delays arising from patient choice.”

Geoff Lang, chief executive of Wrexham Local Health Board, told the
committee that independent care home capacity in Wrexham was
“shrinking quite dramatically”.

A Cardiff Council spokesperson admitted there was a problem with
capacity, but the authority had raised nursing care fees by 6.5 per
cent this year to encourage providers to keep homes open. He said
200 more beds would be available in 2008.

He added: “We’ve prioritised nursing care this year over other
types of care and gone beyond the assembly’s recommended fee
increase. We have also reduced the number of social
services-related delayed transfers from one in five to one in

But Michael Kemp, treasurer at Care Forum Wales, said council fees
for residential homes failed to cover the cost of increased
regulation so the number of homes charging top-up fees would
continue to rise.

  • Report from

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