Elderly housing delays ‘cost NHS millions’

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The NHS is forking out millions of pounds every year because of delays in getting elderly patients back into their own homes following a hospital stay, a charity claims today.

The average patient needing adaptations to their home, such as new grab rails or ramps, is forced to wait in bed for an extra 27 days while improvements are made, charity Age UK said.

Its analysis of NHS data found last year patients in England spent 40,000 days confined to a hospital bed when they were well enough to go home.

These delayed discharge days cost the NHS an estimated £11.2m, the charity said. It calls on ministers to ensure all new homes are built to the “lifetime home standard” so they can easily be adapted as people age.

Experts say the problem of people remaining in hospital despite being fit to go home will become worse unless action is taken as the population ages. Measures to improve out-of-hospital care is a key feature of The Yorkshire Post’s latest Big Debate.

Caroline Abrahams, director at Age UK, said: “Ensuring all new housing can be easily adapted would save the country millions and help end the nonsense of older people lingering for long periods in hospital, simply because of delays in fitting adaptations like grab rails and ramps so they can safely return home.

“Building all new homes to higher accessibility standards would cost a little more today but it would pay off hugely tomorrow, and both older people and the NHS would substantially gain.

“It is worrying that so many older people are living in homes that are hard to adapt and in a poor state of repair.

“Yes, we need a much wider range of specialist housing for older people but as most prefer to remain where they are, it is crucial we do more to make all our mainstream housing fit for the purpose of accommodating our ageing population.”

Housing Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Planning policy already requires local plans to take the housing needs of older and disabled people into account, and we’re changing the rules so that, where there is a local need, councils can set much clearer standards for accessible and wheelchair-adaptable new homes.”

The Yorkshire Post will host a free public debate on the future of hospital care at the Cedar Court Hotel in Huddersfield on September 22, starting at 6pm.

To attend, email Jayne.lownsbrough@jpress.co.uk including your name and a contact telephone number and a question you would like to ask. Alternatively write to Jayne Lownsbrough, Editor’s Secretary, Health Debate, Yorkshire Post, No 1 Leeds, 26 Whitehall Road, Leeds, LS12 1BE.