BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh
BBCi CATEGORIES   TV   RADIO   COMMUNICATE   WHERE I LIVE   INDEX    SEARCH 

BBC NEWS
 You are in: Health
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Background Briefings 
Medical notes 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 


Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

SERVICES 
Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 00:09 GMT 01:09 UK
Initiative to free up hospital beds
Elderly patients
Some elderly patients are unable to leave hospital
Councils are to be given extra cash so they can help reduce the number of elderly patients who are taking up hospital beds unnecessarily.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn and Local Government Secretary Stephen Byers announced on Tuesday that 300m will be made available over the next two years.


The private sector is telling us that the gap between the costs of care and the price that local authorities pay is just getting wider and wider

Glenys Jones
Money will be made available to those local authorities who can prove that they are working closely with the private sector to tackle the problem.

Those areas with the biggest problems will get the biggest share of the cash.

It is hoped that 1,000 hospital beds will be freed up as a result within the next 12 months, and that 2,300 fewer people prevented from leaving hospital when they need to during 2002/03.

The cash will be used to fund extra nursing home places, intermediate care beds and intensive care packages that help older people to live at home.

At present, it is estimated that 6,000 hospital beds are occupied by people who are fit enough to go home, but who can't because there are no community facilities available.

Waiting list

This is preventing patients from being admitted to hospital, and is putting increased pressure on waiting lists.

Local authorities say they simply do not have enough money to purchase sufficient community care facilities.


Waiting times for people who need to leave hospital and waiting times for patients who need to go in to hospital will reduce as this reform programme takes hold

Alan Milburn
This has led to the closure of nursing and residential homes across the country.

Owners say that the fees they have received from social services departments are simply not high enough to make ends meet.

Some parts of the country have been particularly badly hit. A funding crisis at Birmingham City Council had led to fears that a quarter of the city's 2,650 hospital beds could be blocked by this time next year.

The lack of funds meant that there was no cash to pay for patients to take up residential home places.

Neither was the council able to pay for other patients to be helped in their own homes.

Major problem

Mr Milburn said: "Bed-blocking is a major problem for all NHS patients.

"Bed-blocking leaves people in beds who should be cared for elsewhere and keeps people from beds who need treatment straight away.

"We are determined to tackle this problem which has bedevilled the health service for decades so that patients receive the right care in the right place at the right time.

"Waiting times for people who need to leave hospital and waiting times for patients who need to go in to hospital will reduce as this reform programme takes hold."

The plan was welcomed by Glenys Jones, chair of the Association of Directors of Social Services older people committee.

She told BBC News Online that without extra funds the bed blocking problem would intensify over the winter.

Minimum wage

Inflation and a rise in the minimum wage had bumped up care home owners' costs still further.

Ms Jones said: "This money will be very helpful. Right around the country the private sector is telling us that the gap between the costs of care and the price that local authorities pay is just getting wider and wider, and there is no way it can be bridged."

Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said on Sunday that this summer had seen "the worst bed-blocking crisis in the health service."

He said the abolition of tax relief on health insurance for pensioners was partly to blame.

"That had a devastating effect. It dumped over 100,000 pensioners back into the health service which swelled the waiting lists."

Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat spokesman for older people, blamed the loss of 50,000 long term care bed over the last five years for the current problems.

"The NHS and care sectors are overstretched everyday, and with fewer beds it is difficult to see how a modest investment will put this right in time for winter."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Some say it may come to late to make a difference"
See also:

15 Jun 01 | Health
Care crisis blocks beds
01 Sep 01 | Health
The elderly care crisis
25 Oct 00 | Health
Nursing homes 'in crisis'
13 Sep 01 | Health
Social services budget warning
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Health stories