Bed blocking costing NHS ‘£550 per minute’

9 Jul 18

Bed blocking because of a lack of social care availability is costing the NHS an “eye-watering” £550 per minute, according to research by a charity released today.

This equates to £290m a year, Age UK has estimated.

Analysis by the charity also showed that in just two years, the number of older people in England living with an unmet care need has risen by 19%, which translates to 1.4 million over 65s living with unmet care needs

More than 300,000 need help with three or more essential daily tasks like getting out of bed, going to the toilet or getting dressed, the charity found, and of this 165,000 receive no help whatsoever from paid carers, family members or friends. 

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director, said: “The numbers of delayed discharges to a lack of social care are actually going down, but a lack of social care still costs the NHS an eye-watering £500 every minute - not to mention undermining the chances of older people making a full recovery if they are unnecessarily stuck in hospital for weeks or longer.”

Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “People’s unmet care needs will continue to increase and deepen the crisis in adult social care unless the sector receives a long-term funding settlement, like the NHS, and further funding is made available for council’s public health and prevention services.

“To prevent crises in the NHS, government needs to plug the £3.5bn funding gap facing adult social care by 2025 and reverse the £600m in reductions to councils’ public health grants between 2015-16 and 2019-20.”

Age UK noted that between 2009-10 and 2016-17 spending on adult social care in England fell by 8% in real terms.

As a result, in the same period, the average spend per adult on social care fell by 13%, from £430 to £379.

Alex Khaldi, head of social care insights at Grant Thornton, said: “Funding is not the only answer, councils need to focus on monitoring the level of unmet need in their areas more effectively.

“If we are to exercise place-based leadership in social care, better data insight that allows councils to identify where and why people have fallen between the cracks is urgently needed.”

The LGA has announced that it would be publishing its own adult social care green paper, after Jeremy Hunt announced the government green paper would be delayed until autumn.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We expect the NHS to work closely with local authorities to ensure people are treated in the most suitable setting and when they are discharged from hospital they have a care plan in place.”

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