Fears for care packages as staff feel pressure of discharge targets

    A preoccupation with discharging patients from hospital in order to
    avoid fines could be taking social workers’ attention away from
    proper assessment and planning, campaigners have warned.

    Older people’s charity Counsel and Care estimates that nearly two-
    thirds of older people are not receiving access to social workers
    either in hospital or after discharge.

    It follows news that Bournemouth Council is reviewing the deaths of
    three older people who were readmitted to hospital soon after being
    discharged into the community (news, page 6, 27 May).

    Under the Community Care (Delayed Discharge) Act 2003, social
    services departments face fines of up to £120 a day if they
    fail to find alternative care for patients within three days of
    them being deemed ready for discharge from hospital.

    Counsel and Care is urging the government to research the impact on
    older people of its delayed discharges policy.

    A spokesperson for the charity said: “Research is needed because
    the figures imply older people are not receiving the care they

    “The delayed discharge statistics appear impressive. In 2001, there
    were 7,000 delayed discharges a year and, by 2004, this had been
    reduced to just under 3,000.

    “But is this just another example of a government obsessed with
    process and activity statistics when it is outcomes for people that
    really matter?”

    The charity wants the government to consult the providers of
    domiciliary care, care homes, intermediate care and specialised
    housing for older people to find out what incentives they would
    need to introduce “a sustainable increase in the number of places
    available and thus in the amount of real choice for older people
    leaving hospital”.

    Their call coincides with a government drive to encourage sheltered
    housing providers to make available extra care, including
    intermediary and respite care.

    The Office of Deputy Prime Minister and the Department of Health
    have put forward changes in the law to allow housing associations
    to offer short-term care within sheltered housing. Officials said
    that, until then, short term care could be provided as “pilot
    projects” funded by primary care trusts.

    But housing association delegates at a conference last week on
    supporting people at home warned that keeping flats free for
    short-term placements could upset long-term residents.

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