An Age UK report on delayed transfers of care finds that four million hospital bed days have been lost since 2011 due to problems securing social care. Added to this, delays getting homecare have rocketed by 209% in six years.
In 2016/17 alone, nearly one million hospital bed days were lost (954,799) due to an inability to access social care, with an excess cost of £173m, excluding equipment and adaptations.
Over this period, there has been a trend towards more older people staying in the community with homecare rather than going into care homes and nursing homes, but the numbers of bed days lost – because older people are stuck in hospital waiting for homecare to be put in place – have continued to sky-rocket: from 143,916 in 2011/12 to 341,837 in 2016/17 an increase of 209%.
Age UK reveals that the starkest increase was last year, between 2015/16 and 2016/17, when there was a 27.2% rise in the number of bed days lost through an inability to have social care arrangements in place, from 695,037 days to 954,799 days. The latest available figures show that in the period between April and July 2017, there have been 13.2% more days lost to social care than during the same period in 2016.
Whilst there is no age breakdown available for patients affected by delayed hospital discharge they are typically older people.
Age UK is arguing that these figures represent huge numbers of older people unable to start their recovery out of hospital, putting them at risk of infections, loss of mobility and psychological distress. It is also a terrible waste of NHS resources and shows short-sightedness from successive governments in not addressing the social care crisis as it has spiralled year-on-year. An excess bed day in the NHS costs between £2,089 and £2,532 a week for non-elective and elective inpatients, respectively, compared to about £519 for a place in residential care and less still for homecare.
The charity is calling on the Government to act on its pledge to bring forward proposals for putting social care back on track to meet 21st-century expectations and the demands of an ageing population, once and for all.
Responding to the report, Margaret Willcox, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said, 'This welcome but stark report shows why Government needs to make adult social care its number one priority to ensure older and disabled people are not delayed from being discharged back home or to alternative care provision where their personal needs will be best met.
'Councils have consistently prioritised discharge from hospital and dedicated care workers – who recognise that prolonged delays in hospital cause people anxiety and stress – have done a fantastic job in challenging circumstances.
'While councils will continue to prioritise getting people out of hospital, there will be an equal emphasis on preventing admission to hospital in the first place, particularly as winter pressures begin to take hold.
'With half of councils expecting to overspend their adult social care budgets this year, providers closing or returning contracts, adult social care is becoming perilously close to becoming unsustainable.
'The Government needs to bring forward its consultation on adult social care to help councils keep people out of hospital and provide personalised, reliable care for people in their homes and communities when and where they need it.'