Audit Office reinforces view that bed-blocking bill is unworkable

The findings of a new report have raised further doubts about the
viability of the government’s Community Care (Delayed Discharges)

A National Audit Office report released this week reveals that on
any given day more than 4,000 people aged over 75 who are fit
enough to leave hospital are unable to do so.

This would mean the cost to social services departments nationally
could potentially run into millions of pounds per week once the
bill is implemented in April.

Under the new legislation, social services departments will be
charged £100, or £120 in London and the South East, for
every person aged over 75 whose discharge is delayed because care
has not been arranged in the community.

Jenny Stiles, deputy head of policy at Help the Aged, said: “If
anyone other than the government was still thinking of the bill as
a strategic, sensible way forward, this report from the NAO must
surely destroy that illusion.”

The research identifies the shortage of places in care homes as the
most significant factor in preventing the government from reaching
its target of ending delays by 2004.

Other factors listed include poor procedures within hospitals,
inadequate co-operation between the health and social care sectors
and a lack of capacity in appropriate post-hospital care.

The experience of being delayed was found to affect significantly a
patient’s physical and mental well-being and 34 per cent of the
older people affected were delayed for over a month.

Glenys Jones, chairperson of the Association of Directors of Social
Services older people’s committee, said there was no quick solution
to finding the extra capacity required to care for those waiting to
be discharged, with projects such as building care homes taking

“Getting the right capacity of the appropriate range of care is no
quick fix,” she said. “This is why the ADSS has said in its
evidence to government that it would have preferred the bill to be
phased in over three years.”

The research found that while 4,100 people over 75 were unable to
leave hospital in September 2002 this was significantly less than
the 5,700 figure 12 months previously. 

Ensuring the Effective Discharge of Older Patients from NHS
Acute Hospitals

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