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Nearly 2 million NHS days lost to delayed discharge

Published on 10 June 2014 11:00 PM

Nearly 2 million NHS days lost since 2010 as people remain in hospital waiting for social care

New figures from Age UK show that since June 2010, an estimated 1,928,255 bed days have been lost to the NHS at a cost of over £526 million to the tax payer, because people's hospital discharges have been delayed as they wait for social care.

There is no age breakdown available for patients affected by delayed hospital discharge but we know that many are older people.

Older people are now having to wait on average one day longer in hospital before finding a place in a residential care home compared to the position in 2010[i]

Patients waiting to be transferred to a residential home in 2013/14 wait an average of 30 days, while someone who needs grab rails or ramps fitted at home waits 27.3 days, 11.5 per cent longer than in 2010. People waiting for a social care package to be put together before they can go home are having to wait an average 28.6 days in total, 5 per cent longer than in 2010.

An NHS bed costs around £1900 a week compared to about £530 for a place in residential care.

These lengthy waits for social care are happening against the backdrop of £1.2 billion (15.4 per cent) having been cut from social care budgets since 2010, mostly as a result of reduced funding for local government, meaning that local authorities are finding it more and more difficult to provide the social care people need.

Because of this underfunding, access to publicly funded social care has also become increasingly restricted, with the vast majority (87 per cent) of local authorities now only able to provide help if a person's needs have been assessed as being ‘substantial' or above (with a further two per cent only providing care for those with even more profound ‘critical needs')[ii] Many older people who struggle with everyday tasks such as  getting out of bed and dressing, bathing, preparing meals or doing the shopping are assessed as only having ‘low' or ‘moderate' needs and so do not qualify for any help at all. This absence of support leaves many older people at risk of a crisis, which may in turn result in them needing to be be admitted to hospital. Yet good social care can help older people to sustain their health and their independence, relieving the pressure on the NHS.

The consequence of this tight rationing is that from 2005/6 to 2012/13  the number of people aged 65 and over in receipt of social care services actually fell by 27.2 per cent - from 1,231,000 to 896,000[iii] - even though this age group grew by more than one million over the same period.

Although the Better Care Fund which will be transferred from the NHS budget to local authorities and CCGs next year is a considerable amount of money and very welcome. It is not new money and is simply not enough to plug the funding gap or address the financial pressures faced by local authorities and CCGs in 2015/16, which remain very challenging.

Last week the Government launched its consultation on the national eligibility criteria for social care - the threshold of need someone has to pass in order to get help. This is an absolutely crucial decision and it gives the Government the opportunity to start reversing the trend since 2010 of more and more older people being excluded from social care.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK says: 'The marked rise since 2010 in the length of time people are being forced to linger in hospital because of a delayed assessment, care home place, home care package or home adaptation is an outcome of the crisis in social care.'

 'It is crazy to waste expensive NHS resources in this way, when it would be much more cost effective and better for older people to fund social care properly instead.'

'Waiting in hospital a month or more for social care to be organised can also undermine an older person's chances of recovery and be profoundly upsetting for them and their families too.'

'Investing in social care would unblock the log jam and help our hospitals to work more efficiently. A properly resourced care system would transform many older people's lives for the better and would make financial sense as well. And just think how many more people of all ages could get speedier treatment in hospital if the social care support was there for the patients who can't be discharged without it.'

'The best thing the Government could do today is to say they will set the national eligibility criteria for social care at a generous level and commit the increased funding this requires. Then we could have a reasonable expectation that these terrible delayed discharge figures can be improved.'


[i] Reference - NHS England (2014); "Delayed Transfers of Care: Monthly Situation Reports, Apr 2014 and 2013/14 Annual Statistical Report" - Source

[ii] Department of Health (2013); Draft National Minimum Eligibility Threshold for Adult Care and Support, - Source

[iii] Health and Social Care Information Centre (2013); Community Care Statistics, Social Services Activity - Source


Notes to editors

Contact: Liz Fairweather
Telephone: 020 3033 1718
Out of hours: 07071 243 243

For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK

We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI and our local Age UK partners in England (together the Age UK Family). We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances.  We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we").  Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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