The Budget was a missed opportunity to help frail older patients stranded in hospital
The President of the British Geriatrics Society commented that the budget ‘failed to address the critical issue of delayed transfers of care for older people by increasing funding for social care’ at the Society’s national conference.
At the BGS national conference on Wednesday (22 November), Dr Eileen Burns, President of the British Geriatrics Society, called for the Chancellor to provide interim funding for social care to help medically fit older patients stranded in hospital wards return to their homes.
Dr Burns commended the government on its additional 10 billion pound capital investment in the NHS and the recent announcement that a Green Paper identifying long term solutions to the social care crisis will be published in the summer of 2018. Despite these measures healthcare professionals remain concerned that the ongoing limitations on social care funding will continue to put intense pressure on the NHS. She called for immediate action to prevent patients being forced to remain in hospital when there is no medical reason for them to be there. Dr Burns voiced the concerns of the over 1,000 geriatric consultants, nurses and therapists in attendance at the conference. She also highlighted the fact that BGS members are uniquely placed to see the direct correlation between delayed transfers of care and poorer health outcomes.
Despite the government’s acknowledgment that demands on adult social care services are steadily increasing due to an ageing population, spending on these services by local authorities has fallen by 7 per cent since 2009/10. Leading experts now project a funding gap of £2.5 billion for social care by 2019/20. The inevitable increase in delayed discharges will have a direct effect on older patients’ health and quality of life. Research has shown that 10 days of bed rest can potentially lead to a 14% reduction in leg and hip muscle strength and a 12% reduction in aerobic capacity which is the equivalent of 10 years of life. It is now widely acknowledged by the healthcare community that patients who remain in hospital longer than necessary face substantial risks to their long term recovery.
The need for social care reform is now more urgent than ever before and Dr Burns stated that Autumn Budget had not provided adequate funding to address the crisis or sufficient provisions to meet the needs of an ageing population.
Dr Eileen Burns commented: “We are pleased that government plans to address the issue of social care funding, and BGS appreciates the opportunity to participate in the Green Paper expert advisory group. However, our Society remains concerned that the immediate issues around transfers of care will not be alleviated by the measures announced today. Many of our older patients need help to manage everyday activities, such as getting to the toilet, getting in and out of bed and preparing their meals, following discharge from hospital. Without timely access to adult social services these patients cannot return safely to their own homes. There is also clear evidence that a patient is much more likely to be alive, and avoid the need to move to a care home, up to a year after an emergency hospital admission if they have adequate access to integrated support in their community. The fact that our health and social care services are inexorably intertwined must be understood and acknowledged by policy makers, and any future funding models must be adjusted to reflect this”