Age UK analysis reveals that an increasing number of older patients are 'trapped' in hospitals in England as there is nowhere else for them to go. The data shows that elderly patients have spent a total of nearly 2.5 million days stuck in a hospital over the past five years, with the number being kept in hospital in 2014-15 increasing by 19% on the previous year.
Of those patients waiting for discharge from hospital, 174,000 days were spent waiting for a residential home place; 216,000 days waiting for a nursing home place; 206,000 days waiting for help from social care workers or district nurses to get people back into their own home; and 41,400 days waiting for ramps or stairlifts to be installed into patients' homes.
Age UK warns that the root cause is a crisis in social care, ranging from a shortage of care home places to a lack of district nurses to help people in their own homes. NHS England says that extra funds allocated to councils would help to give care and support to patients leaving hospital but, according to Age UK, this is a waste of NHS resources because an NHS bed costs nearly £2,000 per week compared with around £560 per week in residential care.
Commenting on this analysis, Lucie Prothero, a senior associate in Penningtons Manches who specialises in elderly care claims, said: “We agree with Age UK that this is a serious issue in the crisis facing our hospital services. This data clearly demonstrates that much needed hospital beds are being used by increasing numbers of elderly people who should be cared for at home or in the community.
“We receive many enquiries from families concerned about the level of care their older relatives receive in hospital, such as avoidable falls, dehydration, bed sores and infections. The toll on the patient is not just a physical, but an emotional one, which can compromise their mental health and confidence – thereby delaying their recovery. The social care funding squeeze is clearly placing a greater burden on NHS hospitals and must rise up the political agenda if we are to achieve improvements in the level of elderly care provided in hospitals and the community.”