Sending patients to private clinics for care like hip and knee surgery is believed to be the most common purchase.
Phillippa Hentsch, of NHS Providers, said decisions were often made as a last resort where the only alternative would be to cancel.
“Hospitals have to hand over the patients because they have simply not got the beds, staff or theatres free to see them due to the pressures on the emergency side,” she said. “The best interests of the patients are what are paramount. But it is valuable income that is lost to those hospitals. It seems such a waste.”
NHS Improvement’s Quarter Four performance report for 2017/18 released at the end of May reveals that pressures on acute services has created “capacity constraints,” which led to purchases of care from other providers and an overspend by £278m, of which £173m is related to ‘non-NHS’ bodies.
“Given the experience of rising demand and operational pressures in 2017/18, local health systems need to work together so they can meet the increasing levels of demand we will continue to see,” the document said.
“Significant opportunities also remain for improving efficiency and quality and providers and local health systems will need to tackle this in 2018/19 and beyond.”
Areas including non-emergency operations and acquiring places in care homes in a bid to prevent ‘bed-blocking’ were also sectors NHS cash was spent on to meet demand in care.
Nick Sanderson, CEO at Audley Group said: “Spending at this level as a last resort is not only seeing valuable funds go down the drain, but has a significant impact on patient care both in and out of hospital. If part of the bottleneck creating such intense pressure is down to lack of beds, particularly with elderly patients, then buying places in care homes shouldn’t be the only option – not least because 99% of people do not want to be in one.”
“ Building the right care network takes time and consideration, and we can’t keep plastering over the problem in the hope it will go away. When it comes to the older generation in particular, we need to focus investment on a more stable, long-term solution and recognise the value of quality retirement property. Research by the International Longevity Centre has found that living in accommodation that facilitates independent living along with bespoke, flexible care is associated with a lower uptake of inpatient hospital beds. If a hospital visit is required, the freedom to then return to your own property with the necessary care on hand is surely the better choice. There won’t always be more and more money to sink into the NHS. If social care and housing were considered in the round, we could actually create holistic solutions for older people and prevent the issues building up.”