Recent articles in the Guardian and the Times have revealed the shocking extent of bed-blocking across the NHS and how alarmingly common it is in certain UK hospitals. Bed-blocking has been examined in previous Prestige blogs, and refers to situations in which individuals who – although well enough to leave hospital – are detained due to a lack of external care provision required to meet their post-hospital needs.

The Guardian’s research found that in some hospitals, such as Addenbrooke’s in Cambridgeshire, as many as 87 beds out of a possible 1,000 are occupied by bed blockers.

Widespread policy failures lie at the heart of this problem. Social care has for the most part been neglected by successive governments when pursuing healthcare agendas, resulting in an underfunded sector that often lacks a cohesive national policy. Councils often lack the necessary funds to actively meet the care requirements of those leaving hospital, which can result in long term hospital stays for the vulnerable.

On an individual level, this unnecessarily exposes the elderly to hospital viruses, isolates them and keeps them away from their homes and family for prolonged periods of time. On a systematic level, it can add huge amounts of pressure and cost to the NHS through limiting bed spaces and resources.

Prestige is a champion of homecare and knows that it can alleviate the pressures that bed blocking is putting upon NHS resources. Not only is homecare more cost effective than care homes (many of which cost more than councils are willing to pay), but it can also provide familiar and friendly setting in which the vulnerable are looked after.

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Despite the negative case study provided in this article, home care and special support perform an invaluable role by allowing frail or unwell elderly people to return home. In many cases it means people can leave hospital sooner with guaranteed support for tasks in the home that would otherwise be too much. Yet constant cuts to social care budgets have undermined the work of local authorities, councils and the CQC, slowing their ability to get people back home and into the community.’

With the battle lines in the lead up to the election clearly drawn around the NHS and social care, all parties need to demonstrate their commitment to improving funding levels and reducing inefficient bureaucracy, red tape and loopholes. Only by doing this will the industry be able to operate effectively, with the best interests of the patient in mind and a reduced focus on the ‘bottom line’.