Hospitals 'cut older patient beds'
Published on 09 January 2012 12:30 PM
Hospitals may be discharging older patients too early in a bid to cut costs, health experts have warned.
The cost of looking after older patients means NHS bosses are targeting beds for this age group as they try to save money, according to a fresh report.
A survey by the Daily Telegraph found that 469 beds have been cut by 39 NHS trusts since April 2010.
A total of 259 of these beds were specifically for older patients, the survey shows.
These beds are designed to help staff provide extra assistance with tasks such as washing, dressing and eating meals.
Official figures show that 17% of the 121,000 beds in NHS hospitals are for older people, suggesting that managers may have deliberately targeted these beds for cuts.
Doctors warned that this could lead to more people being readmitted to hospital if they are discharged before they are well enough to go home.
Dr Ian Donald from the British Geriatrics Society, who works at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, estimated that specialised beds for older people cost twice as much as other beds.
He said: 'Hospitals are desperate to cut costs. We are coming under pressure to discharge people or shift people elsewhere perhaps earlier than might be good for them.
'The main reason is probably financial; they see elderly care beds are expensive to run and associate it with stays of a couple of weeks rather than a 50-year-old in for three days.
'You do have to understand there is a person at the end of this, who is shunted around. They will be better served by staying in one place.'
Copyright Press Association 2012