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Elderly patients 'ushered out' of hospital without support in place, Age UK says

Published 16/03/2016

Age UK said almost three million hospital bed days were lost between June 2010 and January 2016 in England owing to delayed discharges
Age UK said almost three million hospital bed days were lost between June 2010 and January 2016 in England owing to delayed discharges

Elderly people are being "ushered out" of hospital beds without proper support in place for them to be cared for at home, a charity has warned.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said the mounting pressure on NHS hospitals and a beds crisis meant people were being sent home despite having inadequate help.

It comes as figures from the charity reveal the extent of so-called "bed blocking" - where patients who are medically fit to be discharged are stuck in hospital beds, often because of a lack of social care support in the community.

Age UK said almost three million (2,998,273) hospital bed days have been lost between June 2010 and January 2016 in England owing to such delayed discharges.

Callers to the Age UK helpline have revealed fears over loved ones being forced home from hospital.

Ms Abrahams said: "Hospitals are under huge pressure but it is unacceptable for any hospital ever to usher an older person out without the home support they need being properly in place.

"The solution to the problem of delayed discharge is emphatically never to 'shunt' an older person off the premises with insufficient regard to their need for care and support, but sadly it seems the pressure on hospitals is now such that sometimes this is happening."

In one case highlighted by the charity in its new report, an 85-year-old woman's husband was told she was ready for discharge from hospital despite the fact she had lost her mobility.

"Nobody has assessed what she will need to help her recover at home, whether she can regain her mobility or what adaptations are available to help them manage," the study said.

In another case, a woman was refused the phone number of somebody to speak to over her fears about how she would look after her 97-year-old husband.

Age UK said major drivers for why people are unable to get home are a lack of information and general confusion about what support is available and who is responsible for paying for it.

There is also a " marked shortage" of good services to help older people recover and " sometimes downright buck-passing between different parts of the NHS and between health and social services", it said.

Figures from the charity suggest there has been a 28.4% increase in the number of hospital days lost due to a lack of social care provision over the last two years.

Professor David Oliver, president of the British Geriatrics Society, said the problem was historical but added: "Gimmicks like the better care fund or social care precept have not even papered over the cracks, leaving hundreds of thousands of older people and their carers short of support with predictable results including record numbers in A&E departments when little alternative support is available, and delayed transfers of care leaving older people marooned in hospital beds which hospitals cannot then free.

"Unless the cuts in social care funding are reversed, both social care and NHS services face Armageddon."

The report comes as a separate study from the GMB union found delays in providing residential and nursing home placements cause 23.8% of the total number of days lost to bed blocking.

Justin Bowden, GMB's national officer, said "Bed blocking is choking the NHS. The economic irrationality of failing to fund social care properly is as plain as the nose on George Osborne's face."

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