Fines could be levied for delayed discharge of mental health patients

The system of fining local authorities for the delayed discharge of
older people from hospital could be applied to mental health and
community settings, the government has stated.

A Treasury response to a report from the House of Commons public
accounts committee, which was published in September, states that
there has been a reduction in the number and length of delays in
hospitals over the past two years.

But in answer to criticisms of delays occurring in the discharge of
patients in community and mental health settings, the report also
advises “there is nothing to prevent assessment and discharge
notifications for acute care patients also being extended to cover
other care settings”.

It continues: “Delays in other settings will also benefit from
improved discharge co-ordination, leading to improved integration
between services.”

In October, new legislation came into effect in a shadow form to
make hospitals notify social services departments of patients who
may need social care on discharge. From 5 January, social services
departments will be charged £100 a day (or £120 in London
and the South East) if they fail to arrange care packages for
patients assessed as needing one within two days of

But earlier this year parliament voted to exclude mental health
from the scope of the legislation.

Glenys Jones, chairperson of the Association of Directors of Social
Services older people’s committee, said: “The government has always
intended for delayed discharges to be introduced across all
services but just introducing it for one section of the population
is problematic enough.”

She added that the delayed discharges system in its shadow form in
hospitals is already causing problems for councils.

“The amount of activity in hospitals, or the numbers of people
going into and being discharged from hospitals, is shooting up more
quickly than is the amount of money in the delayed discharges pot.

“If hospital activity increases at a much faster rate and is
greater than our capacity to meet this demand, then we can do
nothing but go into overspend,” she added.

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