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Warning of care services 'meltdown'

MINISTERS have been warned of a “meltdown” in care services for the old in Kent because of a chronic shortage of beds for the long-term frail and elderly. Tory county council leaders have urged the Government to give them more money to solve the crisis before local hospitals succumb to widespread bed blocking.

KCC says it needs a minimum of £7million more a year to allow it to compete with other authorities who are given more via Government grants to meet the costs of private care home beds. But the opposition Labour group accused the Tory leadership of creating scare stories designed mask its own failures of under-investment.

East Kent Health Authority said it currently had around 28 patients waiting to be discharged, excluding those with a mental health problem.

In a statement, it said: “That amounts to more than 160 bed days a week that are not available to other patients who may have urgent medical needs or are waiting for operations. The situation could mean that as we come into the winter period, pressure on our services will escalate if KCC continues to have problems finding nursing beds.”

The Conservative cabinet member for social care Cllr Peter Lake has admitted KCC could ultimately be forced to build more care centres in partnership with health authorities to address the shortages.

County council leader Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said: “The situation is critical. A lot of the elderly people occupying hospital beds have no need to be there and don’t want to be there but suitable places are proving increasingly hard to find. The result, despite all best efforts, is bed blocking, unnecessary uncertainty and worry for older people.”

Labour dismissed talk of meltdown. Group leader Cllr Mike Eddy, said: "This is another political stunt by the Conservative administration aimed at distracting attention from the fundamental problems of social services and blaming government, which is putting large sums into the health and social care economy.”

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