More than 2,500 people have been needlessly held in hospital every day since the last General Election because of inadequate social care, Age UK has found.
Research by the charity revealed that during the 917 days between the last election on June 8, 2017 and the upcoming election on December 12, ‘lost bed days’ in the NHS due to lack of social care will have topped 2.5m.
Over the same period these ‘social care delayed discharges’ have cost the NHS a total of £587 million, or £27,000 each and every hour. That is equivalent to £640,000 every day, or £27,000 every hour, the charity said.
Charity director Caroline Abrahams said the figures showed how damaging the delay in fixing social care had become, with the NHS being left to pick up the bill and many older people being let down by having to stay in hospital for longer than is clinically necessary.
Age UK is calling on whichever political party forms the next Government to make overhauling social care and putting it on a sustainable financial footing for the future its top domestic policy priority.
“We are all paying the price for the inability of our politicians to fix social care, whether you are waiting endlessly for a much needed knee operation or facing hours of delay in A and E following an accident at home,” Caroline said.
“When hospitals get jammed up because they can’t discharge older people the effects feed right the way through and mean there are no beds for new patients who need them. We cannot go on treating the public in this way and leaving the NHS in an intolerably difficult situation. That’s why it is imperative that whichever party forms the next Government, it takes decisive action to rebuild our social care system and put it on an even financial keel. This ought to be its number one domestic policy priority.
“We don’t want to face another winter during which there are genuine worries that our hospitals will be unable to cope because of the lack of social care, and first we have to get safely through this one. People working in health and care are doing everything they can to help and are keeping their fingers crossed about that.”