Millions wasted on keeping healthy patients in Yorkshire hospital beds

Leeds General Infirmary in Great George Street, Leeds.

Leeds General Infirmary in Great George Street, Leeds.

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The bill to Yorkshire hospitals because of so-called ‘bed blocking’ was a staggering £32m in 2014/2015 following more than 100,000 occasions when someone was well enough to leave their ward but no arrangements were put in place.

The cost of bed-blocking comes as it’s been revealed that a shocking 4,100 people died over the winter months in Yorkshire - more than double the previous year.

An unprecedented winter NHS and social care crisis in the region is now just around the corner, shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has warned.

She said: “These delayed discharge figures have reached a record high this year and it’s really important that you get to grips with properly funding adult social care.

“It’s £4.5bn that’s come out of the adult social care project over the last five years.”

She said the fact hospitals can’t discharge someone home or to a residential placement in a community setting shows the social care sector is not working.

She said this winter could be the toughest in a generation as hospitals will end the year £2bn in the red and staff shortages continue.

It’s also been illogical of the Government to slash the social care budget and expect the NHS to cope, she added, particularly when there is also a rapidly rising population of those over 90-years-old.

The cost to the NHS each time a bed is filled with a fit and healthy patient for a day who has no onwards place to go is £303, according to the Department for Health.

In most cases the person can be looked after in a care home or at home with social services support but nothing has been set up.

Current capacity in nursing homes and the social care sector is ‘wobbly’ Ms Alexander said, while the Government’s pledge that they will allow councils to raise a precept of up to 2% from tax payers to cover the costs of adult social care will fall far short of what’s needed.

An investment of at least £3bn would start to have an impact she said, as well as more plans in place for when a care home suddenly closes.

Ms Alexander said: “It’s woefully inadequate. If you look at the scale of demand that exists and the amount of money that could be raised by that 2% precept you get no where near to providing a solution to funding adult social care.”

The poorest areas where state social care is more likely to be needed, are also the places where residents are least likely to be able to contribute to the additional precept, she said.

As the social care crisis unfolds, medics are bracing themselves for another year where hospitals are full from those suffering the adverse affects of cold weather.

The excess winter mortality measure compares the number of deaths in December to March with those in the rest of the year and an estimated 43,900 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2014/15; the highest number since 1999/00.

That means around 27 per cent more people died in the winter months compared with the non-winter months.

The figures for the Yorkshire and Humberside region have more than doubled, rising from 1,810 in 2013/14 to 4,100 in 2014/15.

Labour MP Dan Jarvis said: “Just one person dying because they are too scared to turn on the heating, is one death too many.

“It is unacceptable that in Britain, the fifth richest country in the world, we have people who die every winter because they are not able to keep warm during the cold weather.

“There are many countries in Europe which have much colder winters than Britain, yet have a much lower rate of excess winter deaths. It is clear that more needs to be done in this country to eliminate these unnecessary deaths.”

He praised the work of Barnsley local authority’s Director of Public Health who is developing a plan to tackle the causes of winter deaths in the town, particularly assessing current levels of fuel poverty.

Pensioners unable to pay for heating is also a major concern for Halifax MP Holly Lynch, whose own research has shown that pneumonia is the largest cause of excess winter deaths.

She said: “Shockingly pneumonia is the largest cause of these deaths which highlights the growing problem of people unable to keep their homes warm.

“In addition government cuts to social care mean that elderly people are not receiving the care they need to stay healthy and independent in their own homes.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “These figures are crude estimates and this speculation is unhelpful for hard-working health staff who make sure patients are where they want to be for Christmas - people waiting to leave hospital actually get home more quickly at Christmas than the rest of the year. Hospitals are busy but planned for winter earlier than ever and are performing well - the vast majority of patients are treated or admitted quickly and discharged in good time.

Our Cold Weather Plan sets out a series of actions that health and social care organisations, voluntary groups, and individuals can take to plan for cold temperatures and help reduce cold-related illnesses and deaths.”

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