Woe for families as NHS staff bypass social workers

Social workers are being bypassed by NHS staff when patients are discharged from hospital, putting "extreme pressure" on families, a report warns today.

Social workers are being bypassed by NHS staff when patients are discharged from hospital, putting “extreme pressure” on families, a report warns today.

Healthcare staff in hospitals are dealing directly with families and try to discharge older people directly into care homes, rather than allow social workers to carry out assessments and plan support.

The finding came in a report by charity Counsel and Care, based on the experiences of the 250,000 people who accessed its advice service last year.

It found instances of healthcare staff phoning families four or five times a day to arrange discharge, and hospitals threatening to evict older people if alternative arrangements are not found.

The lack of social work input has increased burdens on families by making social services less responsible for care provision in their areas than they ought to be.

The report found that councils were pleading funding shortages when denying older people with care needs their right to an assessment. It described the response as “inaccurate”, “illegal” and an “infringement of older people’s human rights”.

This is despite the government’s emphasis on improving information and advice for all people with care needs even if they are ineligible for council-funded support.

“We welcome this [emphasis], but the consequence must be that those charged by councils with providing information to often vulnerable people are actually providing clear, accurate and legal advice,” said the report, which called for staff training in councils to be “drastically improved”.

Councils were also accused of breaching guidance on the funding of residential care by making “across the board” requests for families to pay top-up care fees. The guidance makes clear that councils cannot set an arbitrary ceiling on how much they pay for care or put undue pressure on families to make top-ups.

Counsel and Care chief executive Peter Watt said the report had identified “short-term decision making” on the part of councils, in the face of substantial cuts in their funding from Whitehall. “That certainly will not take forward the government’s stated aim of supporting people in their homes and preventing deterioration in their condition,” he added.

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