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British Red Cross calls for immediate release of funds to tackle delayed discharge from hospital

6 June 2016

The British Red Cross is calling on the UK government to release funds to support some of the country’s most vulnerable people in their transition home from hospital.

Many patients who are medically fit to go home cannot leave hospital because necessary care or support is not available for them. This is known as delayed discharge.

The government’s enhanced Better Care Fund – a joint local health and social care fund for the NHS and local councils – is designed to improve ‘wraparound’, integrated health and social care, but won’t be available for at least two years.

The Red Cross argues that these funds are needed now to support the older people who are currently stranded in hospital due to the gap in care provision.

Mike Adamson, Chief executive, said:

“The Government must ensure that older people are discharged from hospital in a safe, supported and timely way.

“Putting these already earmarked funds to use now, rather than later, would enable local health and social care providers to invest in cost-effective services.

“It would ensure that older people are discharged from hospital with dignity.”

Public Accounts Committee inquiry

The Red Cross submitted evidence to today’s Public Accounts Committee inquiry on discharging older people from acute hospitals.

We stressed that this issue, often referred to as ‘bed-blocking’, is almost never the fault of the patient.

Delays are primarily caused by pressure on health services and a lack of investment in care services for adults. People are waiting longer for homecare packages and places in care homes, and social care budgets have been cut year-on-year for the last five years.

Given the current social care crisis, the Red Cross is urging government to respond by releasing the Better Care Fund immediately instead of waiting another two years to release the bulk of the funding.

The Red Cross runs over 100 support at home services across the UK, which last year helped more than 80,000 people. Some of these services are based in A&E departments to ensure people get home from hospital quickly and safely.

Supported discharge services are an essential response to the problem of gaps in health and social care.

Focus on prevention

Further evidence we submitted today stated that social care and prevention services are cost-effective and achieve positive outcomes for older people and their carers.

Investing in prevention services could significantly help avoid people unnecessarily going into hospital in the first place.

Mike Adamson added: 

“The voluntary sector can and should continue to play a key role in this.

“We are uniquely placed because we assist people every day and work with carers and health care professionals to provide the best possible outcomes for people in crisis.

“Our expertise can be put to use to bridge the gap between health and social care services.”

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