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Social care issues 'delaying ops because hospitals too full of patients'

Inadequate social care funding is leading to delays in hospital operations, a leading surgeon has warned.

Delaying transferring patients from hospitals to social care means that there are not enough beds in hospitals to admit patients waiting for operations, the House of Lords Committee on the Long-Term Sustainability of the NHS was told.

Leading medics heaped pressure on the Government to plough more funds into social care as they raised concerns about dwindling funds in the sector and the impact it was having on NHS services.

Ian Eardley, vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons, told the committee: "I'm a surgeon and when I go to hospital I have got an operating list every morning.

"And it rarely starts on time because the hospital is too full of patients.

"Each morning we have got 70 more patients in the hospital than there are beds and at the same time we have got 90 more patients in the hospital who need to be in social care beds who can't get into social care beds.

"So it is making me inefficient. Improved spending in social care would improve my efficiency of elective surgery."

Meanwhile, it was claimed that new plans which are being drawn up to ensure the sustainability of the NHS over coming years are being seen as "bailouts" by social care leaders.

Mr Eardley continued: "I went to the launch of my own STP (sustainability and transformation plan) last week and I was struck in the discussions about social care and healthcare, that the social care people clearly saw the healthcare budget as an opportunity to bail out their problems and this is in the context of an NHS that in many ways is cash-strapped.

"Social care services in my part of the country - which is Leeds and West Yorkshire - has had its funding cut substantially in the past few years as a consequence of economic problems.

"I perceived that they saw merging of the health budget and the social care budget as an opportunity for them.

"While the principle of merging budgets and getting them streamlined makes enormous sense, I worry that simply transferring money from the healthcare budget to the social care budget on its own might not necessarily solve all the problems."

Dame Sue Bailey, chairwoman of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said: "In the short term we need to urgently ensure that social care is properly funded because healthcare is totally co-dependent on social care and would be able to deliver better if the pressure was off social care."

Professor Jane Dacre, president of the Royal College of Physicians, told the committee: "The health service appears to those in the front line to be underfunded.

"But social care is in a worse position than healthcare, so any funding model has to put social care first."

Dr Helen Stokes-Lampard, in her first appearance since being elected as chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, told peers that workforce was a "serious problem" in community care and social care.

" Yesterday in my consulting room I saw several patients who actually what they needed was a social worker, a care navigator to access charity services, what they needed was a counsellor," she said.

" They didn't need the skills that I could offer them as an expert medical generalist but I was the only person they could turn to.

"I was the only person who didn't have a 'we're full' sign at the door.

"They came in because we would see them when there was no one else for them."

She also raised concerns about STPs that were focusing too much attention on hospital debts.

Dr Stokes-Lampard told peers: "The STPs are aiming to look to the median to long term future but they are being distracted by shoring up the acute sector deficit which is a real distraction from what they really need to be doing which is fulfilling the aims of planning for the future.

"Some seem to be really getting the whole picture and embracing that.

"Others seem to be so focused on resolving the acute sector deficit that they are inheriting that they are completely blinkered and unable to see beyond that and that is a tragedy .

"We are trying to help where we can, we have to support the only horse in this race."

Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "This shows the unprecedented financial pressure both the health service and the care system are under.

"The two are interlinked: there cannot be a sustainable NHS without a sustainable adult social care system.

"This is why in our Autumn Statement submission to the Treasury, we are calling on the Chancellor to address the growing funding crisis in social care to ensure a fair care system where everybody can receive safe, high-quality care and support, and not just those fortunate enough to be able to pay for it."


From Belfast Telegraph