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Cash can't solve the bed blocks

PUBLISHED: 15:54 31 July 2001 | UPDATED: 15:16 03 March 2010

PATIENTS are continuing to face delays in receiving vital hospital treatment after a massive cash injection of £500,000 failed to reduce the number of bed-blockers in Suffolk.

PATIENTS are continuing to face delays in receiving vital hospital treatment after a massive cash injection of £500,000 failed to reduce the number of bed-blockers in Suffolk.

The number of delayed discharges reached unprecedented levels last year when they passed the 200 mark, and despite extra funding to tackle the problem numbers have remained consistently high since.

Suffolk Health Authority and Suffolk County Council made the cash available after fears were raised the number of beds occupied by patients well enough to be moved into homes or sheltered housing could top 250.

Councillors provided a £250,000 lump sum to tackle the problem and health bosses matched the figure, plunging them further into debt, after the number of delayed discharges increased by more than 40 per cent in a year.

But the additional money for health and social services seems to have failed to solve the crisis as in the last three months bed blocker figures have been as high as 217.

The county council and health authority have also formed a partnership board to try and find ways of getting the numbers down, but despite the ongoing crisis are not due to meet until September.

Joanna Spicer, Suffolk Health chairman, said: "The money was spent on a whole number of things. We opened new wards in Beccles and Ipswich hospitals and more money was spent by social services to put people into rest homes.

"That extra £500,000 is there in the budget from now on but the message from this report is that we need to do more as we are in the same situation as this time last year.

"We need to talk to the county council. Although it is easy to say that a lot of it is the responsibility of social services, I believe we have to work together.

"The NHS must be prepared to find more money but I cannot press the health service or the county council for more funds if we do not know what the money should be spent on.

"So I will be talking to the board on Wednesday and asking for an urgent report into where the money needs to be spent to improve the situation because the affect is very worrying on the NHS."

Latest figures show 209 hospital beds are currently taken up by patients awaiting social care packages and regional NHS bosses have voiced their concern at the high numbers.

In a report compiled by Mark Millar, director of finance and healthcare commissioning, he says the authority has been "unsuccessful in achieving any significant reduction in the levels of delayed transfers of care".

It also reveals that a recent snapshot survey of hospital patients over 65 indicated "a substantial proportion" of them could have their needs met in other settings, suggesting delayed transfers of care "significantly understate the opportunity to use NHS beds more effectively."

The matter will be discussed at a board meeting of the authority tomorrow where members will hear that the Eastern Region NHS Executive is also seeking urgent action.

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