MILLIONS of pounds are being lost by the NHS every month because hospitals are unable to discharge healthy patients.

Home care cuts have meant bed blocking has cost health trusts £122million so far this year, say figures seen by The People.

It occurs when those who no longer need hospital help cannot be let go because no home care is available or their properties need modifications – all areas hit by the government’s ruthless cost-cutting. But experts said the average outlay to care for people in the community – about £200 per person each week – is a lot less than someone staying in a ward.

Andrew Gwynne MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, said: “Since this Tory-led Government came to power more than £1.3billion has been cut from council money for older people.

“Vital services are disappearing and older patients are left waiting in hospital beds because they cannot get the care needed in their homes.

“Older people are paying with their quality of life and the NHS is spending millions each month on extra beds.

“The Government is in denial about the true scale of the care crisis. We need urgent action to reform care – older and disabled people deserve better.”

Bed-blocking costs the NHS around £600,000 per day at a time when it is starved of money. Last month there were 70,000 instances of a bed being unavailable for a day – a cost of £18.2million. The Department of Health figures show a 26 per cent rise in the number of days since data was collected in 2010 after the Coalition took power. There were 55,332 cases of bed-blocking that August.

Council social care problems that have a knock-on effect on discharging older people include a lack of home help and residential care placements. There is also often a shortage of community equipment and home modifications, such as hand rails and stair lifts. In a survey carried out last year by, 50 per cent of the 500 UK professionals surveyed said the situation was getting worse.

Recent investigations uncovered one patient who had been kept in a bed at the Harplands Hospital treatment and assessment unit in Hartshill, Staffordshire, for five years. The picture is the same in other areas of the country. In Wiltshire, the number of elderly people who are bed-blocking has risen five-fold in the past year.

(Published in The People, on Sunday 26th August 2012)

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