Another day, another false economy: The avoidable bed-blocking crisis

Following the revelation yesterday that more than 50,000 NHS jobs face the axe, a report out today shows how funding cuts are leading to an "intolerable" bed-blocking crisis.

Following the revelation yesterday that more than 50,000 NHS jobs face the axe, a report out today shows how funding cuts are leading to an “intolerable” bed-blocking crisis. A report by Bupa, covered in this morning’s Telegraph and Mail, says the “chronic under-funding” of care homes, shortage of places and ageing population mean vulnerable people will have nowhere to go but hospital.

The Telegraph report adds:

“If current trends continue, almost 100,000 of 170,000 NHS beds will end up being filled by elderly people who are well enough to be in residential care.

“This will cost the health service millions of pounds and throw its day-to-day operations into chaos… [Bupa] blames the looming crisis on a ’17-year legacy of under-funding in the care home sector’.

“The next few years will see the problem getting progressively worse, the report’s authors predict, despite a Coalition pledge that local authorities will have an extra £2 billion to spend on adult social care over the next four years.”

As Left Foot Forward has previously reported, the cuts to council funding will only make the problem worse. In January, Age UK’s Hilary Evans wrote for us:

“We’ve been consistently arguing that one of the many unpleasant outcomes of failing to invest in good-quality social care for older people, both at home and in residential care settings, is that people end up staying in hospital unnecessarily.

“Being forced to stay in hospital longer than you have to has significant consequences for people’s wellbeing. Very few people would choose to stay in hospital longer than absolutely necessary, no matter how high the level of care. Extended hospital stays, particularly unnecessary ones, can be very distressing both for the patients themselves and for their families, friends and carers.

“There is also a serious financial imperative to stop bed blocking. The Commons Public Accounts Committee has previously estimated that bed blocking costs the NHS £170 million every year. An NHS hospital bed costs the NHS around £1,750 – £2,100 for a week’s stay. In contrast, the average cost of residential care is just under £500 a week, while nursing homes cost around £700 a week. Providing social care at home, such as helping older people with eating and washing, costs on average around £208 per week.

“Good quality post-discharge services are vital to support older people who are recovering and re-establishing their independence at home, but even with these additional costs, the overall figure for care at home is significantly lower than the cost of keeping older people in hospital.”

While last November, writing about the additional £2bn announced in the CSR, Age UK wrote that it:

“… barely covers the CSR-created hole in local authority care spending and so we predict a small overall drop in funding over the next four years, threatening to turn this problem into a disaster. Reform to the care system is urgent.”


“Any cuts in funding for care support inevitably heap more work onto the shoulders of informal carers who often experience poor health themselves. Age UK has pushed for greater financial, practical and emotional support as part of our Older Carers Campaign – the increased budget available for respite care is a good first step.

“Carers often make great personal and financial scarifies to care for their loved ones, saving the economy an estimated £87 billion a year.”

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