Long-term care crisis leads to service cuts

    Neighbourhood renewal projects in Birmingham have been scrapped
    to fund extra residential care placements amid fears that delayed
    discharges are pushing the city’s hospital services towards the
    brink of collapse.

    At a meeting between the council and the health authority at the
    weekend, a £6.9 million emergency package was agreed to deal
    with the backlog of older people waiting to leave hospital, and to
    meet expected demand over the next nine months.

    The majority of the additional money – £5.9 million – will
    come from the council, which will be forced to cut £3 million
    worth of neighbourhood renewal initiatives, delay capital projects,
    and borrow from school reserves. The remaining £1 million will
    come from the health authority for additional placements.

    The emergency package means that funded monthly placements of
    older people into nursing and residential homes will increase from
    93 to 180.

    Albert Gore, leader of Birmingham Council, described the city’s
    predicament as a “national problem which has been made more serious
    in Birmingham by a series of local factors”. He called for a
    meeting with either health secretary Alan Milburn or health
    minister Jacqui Smith.

    “Social services departments up and down the country are under
    intense pressure,” Gore said. “We will be asking ministers to
    consider this issue in deciding upon next year’s Revenue Support
    Grant.

    “I want to include Stephen Byers, secretary of state at the
    Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, in these
    discussions because any extra money found for social services will
    impact on other social services, or alternatively call for
    unacceptable increases in council tax.”

    Birmingham GP and local secretary of the British Medical
    Association Dr Fay Wilson said the inability of the social services
    department to meet its obligations to assess and meet the care
    needs of older people was jeopardising the hospital admissions
    system and resulting in vulnerable people being left at home
    despite being assessed as requiring residential or nursing
    care.

    Wilson said that, between the city’s hospitals, 250 medical beds
    had been turned into social care beds for older people awaiting
    residential, nursing or home care packages – a figure that had been
    rising by 40 beds per month.

    Plans to cut neighbourhood renewal initiatives to fund long-term
    care follow controversy about Birmingham council’s decision to
    spread its neighbourhood renewal money between a greater number of
    wards rather than concentrate solely on the poorest 10 per cent of
    wards, where black and ethnic minority people predominantly
    live.

    Meanwhile, further cuts to adult services were agreed last month
    at a meeting of the council’s social services and health advisory
    team.

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