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County targeted for hospital help

PUBLISHED: 16:00 10 October 2001 | UPDATED: 15:18 03 March 2010

SUFFOLK is today deciding how to spend £1.5 million after being named one of the top ten places in Britain with a bedblocking crisis in its hospitals.

The county council welcomed the Government's cash injection, to help ease the problem by providing alternative care for elderly people blocking hospital beds.

SUFFOLK is today deciding how to spend £1.5 million after being named one of the top ten places in Britain with a bedblocking crisis in its hospitals.

The county council welcomed the Government's cash injection, to help ease the problem by providing alternative care for elderly people blocking hospital beds.

As the Evening Star first revealed back in July, Ipswich Hospital was so badly affected that hundreds of operations had to be cancelled because 70 people were in beds unnecessarily. Today, an average of 50-60 bedblockers lie in beds at Ipswich Hospital.

Anglia Care Association has also warned that nursing homes are closing down because of an alleged lack of funding.

The new money will be used to buy residential and nursing care, intensive home care and intermediate care from local providers. The council and the independent sector will enter into long-term agreements to place elderly people in care homes rather than leaving them in hospital.

The cash is part of a £300m national handout from the Government, in a bid to end NHS hospital bedblocking by 2004.

Robin Sargent, member of the county council's executive committee with the portfolio for Adult Care and Health, said: "Suffolk County Council welcomes this additional funding to tackle the

problem of delayed transfers of care. It is in recognition of the pressures we are facing in Suffolk.

"The council is committed to promoting the well-being of older people and is working in close partnership with the private and voluntary sector and our health colleagues to tackle these challenges."

Health Secretary Alan Milburn and Local Government Secretary Stephen Byers, who unveiled the move, said it should free up 1,000 NHS beds this year - there are currently around 6,000 blocked beds nationally.

The Department of Health hopes the partnership will help stabilise the care home sector and create greater confidence in it.

Mr Milburn said: "Bedblocking is a major problem for all NHS patients.

"This cash for change programme, based around our new agreement, means the NHS, private and voluntary care providers and local councils will work better together to reduce bed-blocking.

"Waiting times for people who need to leave hospital and waiting times for patients who need to go in to hospital will reduce."

But shadow health secretary Dr Liam Fox said: "This is too little, too late. The real crisis is the massive loss of care home beds as a result of Labour's incompetence.

"This response is typical of their lack of understanding. Labour ministers believe that money alone will resolve the chaos. But it is Labour's policies that have created the bedblocking crisis.'

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: "The injection of money is an important step towards resolving the pain and anguish which older people suffer.

"However, this money must be linked to measures to stabilise the care industry and to make sure that vulnerable people are never again subjected to the effects of an unmanaged 'boom and bust' market system.

"Older people do not deserve to be pushed from pillar to post - they need security. It is essential that local authorities achieve stable contracts with care providers to provide continuity for those who are vulnerable."

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