Cash to hospitals to aid bedblock

By Tracey SparlingHealth and Education>HOSPITALS could soon be reimbursed for the cost of looking after elderly bedblockers.

By Tracey Sparling

HOSPITALS could soon be reimbursed for the cost of looking after elderly bedblockers.

Details of a new system proposed to help tackle delayed discharges – known as bedblockers – have been cautiously welcomed in Suffolk.

The system, which the Department of Health is inviting comments on, is based on a method used in Scandinavia that has had a major impact on reducing the number of patients waiting in hospital beds for social care.

As soon as the patient needs social services, then social services will have responsibility for their care. If they are delayed in hospital, receiving care and attention from hospital staff, then social services will pay for their care until a more suitable setting can be found.

Social services will get more money to meet their extra commitment by receiving a six per cent increase in funding over the next three years.

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By 2006 older people's services will receive an extra £1billion a year.

That will pay for intensive home care packages, extra care housing, community equipment, services for carers, and intermediate care – one of several new measures to tackle bedblocking in Suffolk which featured in the Evening Star earlier this month.

There are currently about 50 bedblockers in Suffolk, below the county's target of 70 by March 2003.

Terry Green, county councillor with responsibility for adult care, was "encouraged" by the plan, but was waiting to hear more.

He said: "The government has actually started to listen and we're saying we can't reduce bedblocking on our own. We need to work in partnership with Primary Care Trusts and other NHS organisations to achieve that.

"Health Secretary Alan Milburn said this week that preventing people going into hospital was the way, and we started that six months ago, and it's helping. Although there is still a shortage of residential homes, we are concentrating on very sheltered housing schemes and there should be 300-400 more beds in Suffolk by 2006."

Health Minister Jacqui Smith, said: "It is bad for an older person to be delayed in an acute hospital bed once they are ready to leave.

"They may lose the confidence they need to regain their independence when they return home, be at risk of infection and losing mobility.

"Partnerships between acute and community sectors, between NHS, social services and the independent sectors are essential in tackling delayed discharge. The reimbursement system will clarify who is responsible for which stages of care so that partners can work together on a smooth transition. It will give a financial incentive to move patients on time."

Nationally, bedblockers have reduced from March last year when there were 5,938 delayed discharges to the end of March this year when there were 4,691.

The number of people waiting more than 28 days to be discharged, has also fallen by 800 since September 2001.


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