Lamb praises ‘remarkable’ response from social care staff to NHS pressures

Care and support minister says it is 'remarkable' that days lost to delayed discharges due to social care reasons are at same level as 2010

Care and support minister Norman Lamb
Care and support minister Norman Lamb. Photo: Rex/Albanpix Ltd

Care minister Norman Lamb has paid tribute to the ‘remarkable performance’ of social care staff in managing delays in the discharge of patients from NHS hospitals.

Lamb was responding to a parliamentary question from Labour that claimed central government cuts to local authorities were a “key cause” of the pressures on NHS A&E departments. Shadow care minister Liz Kendall called on Lamb to investigate concerns from Public Health England that social care cuts could be behind a fall in life expectancy in parts of the north west of England.

In response, Lamb said: “Although there was a fall in life expectancy for those aged 85 in 2012, preliminary analysis shows that there was no further drop in 2013. Incidentally, let me pay tribute to the people who work in social care.

“The system has performed remarkably well. Statistics on delayed discharges due to social care show that the number of delayed days is almost exactly the same this year as it was in 2010—a remarkable performance.”

The latest official NHS England figures on delayed discharges cover the month of November 2014. These show that there were 37,004 days of delays in discharging patients for social care reasons, an increase of 24% on the November 2013 figures but slightly lower than the 37,030 days delayed for social care in November 2010. There were 92,924 days’ worth of delays due to NHS reasons in November 2014, up 16% from November 2013 and a 36% increase on November 2010.

Research by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services last year found that the government’s squeeze on local authority funding had forced councils to make cuts of 26% to social care budgets since 2010 once inflation was factored in. Campaigners have warned that the cuts have led to less people accessing preventative care to keep them out of hospital and contributed to delays in discharging patients.

Month Days delayed for social care Days delayed for NHS reasons Days delayed due to both
November 2010 37,030 68,234 7,827
November 2011 35,280 71,009 8,326
November 2012 31,823 77,182 7,164
November 2013 29,725 79,663 7,544
November 2014 37,004 92,924 9,730

The winter crisis engulfing NHS A&E departments has seen intense focus on delayed discharges. Yesterday, Professor Keith Willets, NHS England’s director of acute care, told MPs that around 20% of bed days over the festive period were used by patients who were medically fit to leave hospital but could not due to problems accessing ongoing care. Two-thirds of the delays were due to NHS issues and one-third social care issues, Willets said.

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