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Figures reveal bed blocking problem at Kent hospitals due to shortage of care home places

By Paul Francis

The number of days patients had to remain in hospital in Kent due to problems with transferring them to care homes topped more than 4,000 in September.

Figures released today show a total of 4,090 'bed days' were lost because of delayed discharges due to a shortage of care home places or because care home packages could not be organised.

However, that represents a slight fall on the previous month when 'bed blocking' accounted for 4,271 lost days.

Patients are forced to stay in hospital longer than necessary. Library image.

Patients are forced to stay in hospital longer than necessary. Library image.

 

Of the 4,090 days lost, 815 were because there was no places available in appropriate care homes, compared to 884 in August, while 776 were because no nursing home placements were available – up from 746 on the previous month.

A total of 496 days were lost because no care packages could be organised for patients to be discharged to their own homes. Meanwhile, 190 days were lost because adaptations to homes had not been completed.

The figures released by the Office for National Statistics come as health chiefs warn of increasing pressure on hospitals because of a possible winter flu crisis.

The issue of bed blocking has been a growing challenge for health chiefs because of the growing number of elderly people needing care.

"There is a crisis facing adult social care. There is a demographic issue - we have more older people living longer with conditions like dementia and how society nationally faces up to that is going to be a major challenge" - Cllr Graham Gibbens

Kent County Council says the pressures it is under present a mounting problem. It recently revealed the rise in demand for services for the elderly was a key reason for a £7.8m overspend in its budget.

In Medway, there has been a significant drop in bed blocking - with 444 days lost in September compared to 574 in the previous month.

Bed blocking occurs when patients admitted to hospital for treatment are often well enough to recuperate elsewhere but are unable to be discharged because of a lack of capacity in care homes or because they need short-term help in their own homes which cannot be provided.

It also occurs when patients have been admitted to hospital for emergency treatment but are unable to be moved to another hospital to recuperate.

Cllr Graham Gibbens, KCC cabinet member for adult social care

Cllr Graham Gibbens, KCC cabinet member for adult social care

Cllr Graham Gibbens, KCC cabinet member for adult social care, said: "I am pleased to see an improvement and it is evidence that the work between Kent County Council and health care services but there is more work to be done.

"The government did make available £52m for authorities and we are using that money for a range of things. There is a crisis facing adult social care. There is a demographic issue - we have more older people living longer with conditions like dementia and how society nationally faces up to that is going to be a major challenge.

"What we have been able to do with new money on domiciliary care is pass that money on and it has been used to fund the travel time for carers, which is really important. It is a big plus."

A scheme to place social workers on hospital wards to assess patients had also benefitted, he said.

On the prospect of the pressure on the NHS caused by winter flu and its impact on bed blocking, he said: “There is a real question mark about how the system is going to cope.”

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