New Age UK analysis has found that over 2.5 million bed days have been lost in the NHS due to a lack of social care since the last general election.
The cost of this for the NHS is £587m overall, equivalent to £640,000 every day, or £27,000 every hour, according to Age UK.
The average number of people kept in hospital after they were ready to be discharged because of inadequate social care over the period was 2,750 every day, and while there is no age breakdown available for patients affected by delayed hospital discharge, Age UK suggests they are typically older people.
These figures show just how damaging the delay in supporting the social care sector is, and the charity is therefore calling on whichever political party forms the next Government to overhaul social care and put it on a sustainable financial footing for the future.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK says, 'As we head into winter, the time when the NHS is under maximum pressure, it is important for everyone to recognise just how much harder their job is being made by the lack of social care. It is appalling that 2.5 million bed days will have been lost to the NHS between the last election and this one, simply because there is not nearly enough social care available to allow older people to be safely discharged. The waste of money this represents is staggering, coming in at more than half a billion pounds, but the human cost is arguably even greater, with many older people finding this means their recovery and rehabilitation is seriously delayed or in the worst cases put out of reach altogether.
'We are all paying the price for the inability of our politicians to fix social care, whether you are waiting endlessly for a much needed knee operation or facing hours of delay in A&E following an accident at home. When hospitals get jammed up because they can’t discharge older people the effects feed right the way through and mean there are no beds for new patients who need them.
'We cannot go on treating the public in this way and leaving the NHS in an intolerably difficult situation. That’s why it is imperative that whichever party forms the next Government, it takes decisive action to rebuild our social care system and put it on an even financial keel. This ought to be its number one domestic policy priority.
'We don’t want to face another winter during which there are genuine worries that our hospitals will be unable to cope because of the lack of social care, and first we have to get safely through this one. People working in health and care are doing everything they can to help and are keeping their fingers crossed about that.'
Responding to the news that 2.5 million bed days have been lost in the NHS, Sally Copley, Director of Policy and Campaigns at Alzheimer’s Society, said, 'Yet again, here’s compelling and indisputable evidence of the social care crisis gripping this country. The failings in the social care system are pushing families with dementia to breaking point, and leaving too many vulnerable people stuck in hospital with nowhere else to go.
'...Winter is well on its way, and pressure on hospitals is only going to get worse. Whoever forms a new Government cannot hide from this crisis a minute longer – they must commit to both immediate investment and longer term radical reform that ensures everyone with dementia can access good quality social care, instead of being stranded in hospital. Fixing this problem is not just the humane thing to do, it is the smart thing to do – it’s clearly ridiculous to not address it when it is more expensive to keep a person with dementia in hospital than for them to get the care they need and deserve.'
Nick Ville, Director of Policy at the NHS Confederation said, '97% of health leaders we surveyed in England believe that the social care crisis is having a damaging effect on the NHS and on patient care. This analysis from Age UK is further evidence of that.
'Creating a sustainable care system has to be a critical priority for the incoming Government. Like the NHS, it needs a long term plan and significant investment.
'Otherwise, people will continue to suffer by being left in hospitals at a time when services are busier than ever, waiting time standards are not being met and we have significant staffing gaps.'