Thousands of elderly needlessly in hospital

Thousands of elderly people are being kept in hospital needlessly after the number of district nurses fell by almost one fifth.


Delays in patients being discharged from hospital – often those who are elderly and frail – are frequently the result of a lack of NHS services in the community, such as district nurses

By , Political Correspondent

8:00AM GMT 31 Dec 2012

Official NHS figures disclosed that the number of district nurses working in England declined from 7,813 in May 2010 to 6,424 in August this year.

This represented an 18 per cent cut in the service, which provides nurses to visit elderly and disabled adults in their own homes, since the Coalition was formed.

The fall coincided with a marked increase in the number of days that frail patients spent on hospital wards because of a shortage of adequate community health and care services.

Delays in patients being discharged from hospital – often those who are elderly and frail – are frequently the result of a lack of NHS services in the community, such as district nurses.

The number of days lost to this so-called “bed blocking” has risen by 38 per cent in recent months, at an estimated cost of £260 for every day that a patient remains in hospital unnecessarily.

Labour said the NHS was losing £6 million a month as a result of patients who were being kept on wards when they should be cared for at home or in their local communities.

Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow minister for care and older people, criticised the Coalition for presiding over a fall of 1,389 in the number of district nurses in England. “Older people don’t want to have to go into hospital or get stuck there for longer than they need to, and neither do their families,” she said.

“District nurses provide highly skilled care to help people stay healthy and well in their own homes. Cutting these vital nurses isn’t good for patients and it’s not good for taxpayers either, who are ending up paying millions of pounds extra every month on more expensive hospital services because patients can’t get the care they need in the community or at home.”

According to the NHS website, “district nurses play a vital role in keeping hospital admissions and re-admissions to a minimum and ensuring that patients can return to their own homes as soon as possible”.

However, the latest figures showed that in November 2012 there were 22,640 “delayed discharge days” from hospital due to people waiting for care that could have been provided in the community.

This was a rise from 16,424 in August 2012, the first month when comparable figures were collected. The cost of each “excess bed day” is £260, making a total bill of £5,886,400 for delayed discharges caused by a lack of NHS services in communities.

A Department of Health spokesman said patients were “spending less time in hospital”. “No one should stay in hospital longer than they need to,” the spokesman said.

“Average lengths of stay in hospitals are about one third shorter than they were 10 years ago, and the NHS saw over 500,000 more patients as day cases in 2011-12, compared with two years ago.”

Ministers have repeatedly promised to tackle the elderly care crisis. Yesterday, Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said improving services for dementia patients was one of his priorities for 2013.

“If the NHS doesn’t get better, it’s my head on the block,” he told LBC radio. “I have said that if we haven’t radically improved the way we look after people with dementia by the time of the next election, I will have failed.”


One Response to Thousands of elderly needlessly in hospital

  1. TEDDY MCNABB says:

    Bed -Blocking and lack of carers has been a problem for years, if i had a penny for every sheltered resident i knew over the years ive lived in shelterted housing i would be wealthy.

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