Delayed discharge fines set to start in October

Plans to fine social services for the delayed discharge of
patients from hospital could begin in October, following a vote by
MPs to reject the April 2004 implementation date proposed by the
House of Lords, writes Katie Leason.

MPs in the House of Commons voted by 330 to 205 to reject
delaying the start of the system by a whole year, with health
minister Jacqui Smith saying that the government had proposed “a
sensible delay” of six months.

“The bill is about ensuring that those older people who are
currently not getting the deal that they deserve can get a better
deal. That is why I do not believe that we have anything to gain
from delaying implementation for a whole year,” she said.

She said that the bill had resulted in an “unprecedented wave of
activity” around delayed discharge, with local authority and NHS
partners discussing shared problems and finding common

MPs also voted by 320 to 178 to reject the Lords’
amendment to exclude people receiving mental health services from
the fining system on the grounds that it could be

An amendment intended to place a statutory duty on inspection
bodies to monitor the impact of the bill on patients and carers was
also thrown out by a vote of 308 to 198.

“The implication seems to be that health and social care
professionals will irresponsibly discharge patients with
inappropriate care packages, but we do not believe that this will
be the case,” said Smith.

The MPs also voted to reject amendments to limit the fining
system to a five year period, to exclude Saturdays, Sundays and
public holidays from the discharge period, and to require a
patient’s or carer’s consent before the NHS can inform
social services.

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