A&E units are struggling to cope because social care services that help elderly people have been cut so much that they are reaching a “tipping point”, England’s care regulator is to warn.
Hospitals are ending up dangerously full and have seen “bedblocking” hit record levels because of a widespread failure to give elderly people enough support to keep them healthy at home, says the Care Quality Commission.
A worsening lack of at-home care services and beds in care homes are forcing hospitals to admit more patients as emergencies, which deepens their already serious financial problems. “What’s happening, we think, is that where people aren’t getting access to [social] care, and we are not preventing people’s needs developing through adult social care, is that they are presenting at A&E,” said David Behan, the CQC’s chief executive.
Figures contained in the commission’s annual report show that the number of hospital bed days lost through patients being unable to leave because social care was not available to allow them to be discharged safely soared from 108,482 in April 2012 to 184,199 in July this year – a 70% rise.
The fact that growing numbers of mainly frail, elderly people are being left without the help they need with basic chores such as washing, dressing and cooking “creates problems in other parts of the health and care system, such as overstretched A&E departments or delays in people leaving hospital,” he added. GP surgeries are also having to treat patients who became unwell or suffered an injury because they did not receive help they needed.
Behan urged ministers to give social care a higher priority and urgently find extra money for it to prevent its ongoing deterioration causing even worse problems. “We are becoming concerned about the fragility of the adult social care market, with evidence suggesting that it might be approaching a tipping point,” he said.
Full story in The Guardian 13 October 2016