The Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) has called for an emergency cash injection by the government into social care so that local authorities can purchase more care home places to alleviate the £900 million bed blocking crisis hitting NHS acute hospitals.
This follows a report last week from the government’s NHS efficiency ‘troubleshooter’ Lord Carter calling for greater collaboration between hospital trusts and the social care sector so that patients needing a form of intermediate care after a hospital stay can be transferred more quickly into community settings, including care homes.
RNHA chief executive officer Frank Ursell welcomed Lord Carter’s proposals, which encourage NHS trusts to find ‘rapid local solutions to the problem of delayed transfers’, which currently sees an estimated 8,500 patients a day stuck in hospital beds simply because there is nowhere suitable for them to be discharged to. “This problem has been with us for many years,” said Mr Ursell, “but it’s getting worse because social care funding has been slashed and there just isn’t the money in the system to pay for the care home places so desperately needed.”
He added: “Local authorities in parts of the country have been cutting the amounts they pay to care homes, many of which have gone out of business or are seriously thinking of doing so. At best, local authorities have frozen the rates they pay for publicly funded placements in care homes, which is another form of cut because it fails to compensate the homes for the rising costs of staff and other overheads.
“When the new national living wage comes into force this year, care homes will be hit by yet another financial blow from which many will not recover. Estimates suggest that it will increase our pay bills this year by around 5%, with independent experts calculating a potential loss of 37,000 care home beds at a time when the NHS needs more of them to help alleviate its own bed crisis.”
Mr Ursell accused the government of looking the other way while the NHS and social care were both struggling to cope with demand and hamstrung by a funding shortfall that was leaving some of the most vulnerable people in society in limbo – stuck in a hospital ward where they no longer need to be. “It’s time for action by the Secretary of State,” he said. “He’s fiddling in Richmond House, Whitehall, while the NHS cancels operations because of blocked beds and while care homes struggle to keep their heads above water because their average costs exceed income by over £40 per resident per week. This cannot go on. It’s no way for a government to run things in one of the world’s leading economies. “MPs were recently debating these issues in the Commons, with both sides of the House highlighting the bind that social care now finds itself in as demand rises and income falls. Lord Carter’s report exposes the true scale of the crisis. When is the Secretary of State going to take it seriously.”