Delayed discharge fines damage social care planning, charity warns

    Charity Counsel and Care has found 65 per cent of older people
    needing its help do not have access to social workers either in
    hospital or after discharge, writes Shirley
    Kumar
    .

    The charity’s researchers believe social workers’
    concerns about fines for delaying hospital discharges could result
    in less time spent planning care and accommodation.

    Under new laws introduced in October 2003, social services are
    required to pay the NHS up to £120 per day if patients are not
    discharged into intermediary or respite care to free up beds.

    An analysis of the 25,000 calls Counsel and Care receives each year
    showed 65 per cent needed to be put in touch with a social worker.
    The older person’s charity is urging the government to
    research the outcome of its drive to reduce bed-blocking in
    hospitals with accelerated discharges for older people.

    “Research is needed because the figures imply older people
    are not receiving the care they need,” said a spokesperson
    for Counsel and Care.

    The delayed discharge statistics appeared impressive, she said. In
    2001, there were 7,000 delayed discharges per year and by 2004 this
    had fallen to less than 3,000. “Is this just another example
    of a government obsessed with process and activity statistics when
    it is outcomes for people that really matters,” the
    spokesperson asked.

    The government is urging sheltered housing to provide extra care
    including intermediary and respite care. Community care minister
    Stephen Ladyman is expected to push for housing and care to go hand
    in hand at the Chartered Institute of Housing conference this
    week.

    But Department of Health community care advisor Paul Watson told
    delegates at the ERoSh Supporting People at Home 2004 conference
    that the extra care would need to be seen as a “pilot
    project” and funded via the Primary Care Trust because it was
    “illegal to provide short-term care within sheltered housing
    under the Housing Act 1996”.

    He said the Housing Corporation also turns a blind eye to housing
    associations involved in providing extra care.

    The Office of Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and Department of Health
    (DoH) have put forward changes in the law to allow housing
    associations to offer extra care services.

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