Delayed discharges due to underfunding, social care leaders say

writes Mithran Samuel

Social care leaders have blamed underfunding and faster treatment of patients in hospitals for a significant increase in the level of delayed discharges.

The number of bed days lost to delayed discharges in acute trusts in England in the past 12 months was over 27% higher than the total for the preceding year, according to government figures revealed in a parliamentary answer last week.

There were 963,776 delayed bed days in acute trusts in the year from October 2006 compared with 756,481 delayed bed-days in the same period between 2005-2006, the figures showed.

The Local Government Association said the rise was a result of the underfunding of social care and warned the situation was “unlikely to improve in the near future” due to last month’s comprehensive spending review, under which council funding will rise by 1% a year in real terms from 2008-11.

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Anne Williams said bed-blocking was often the result of delays in NHS assessments of patients but also said the rise reflected a faster “throughput” of patients in the NHS.

The figures were published after a separate report by the Welsh Audit Office found delayed transfers of care were being under-reported in Wales because of poor measuring by health and social care bodies.

While the number of people experiencing delays had dropped over the past two years, the total number of bed days lost to delayed discharges had grown by 2% to 268,491 at a cost of £69m in 2006-7, the office found.

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