DOZENS of elderly patients are forced to stay in hospital due to a lack of social care, it has been claimed.
In a debate in Parliament the MP for Chester, Chris Matheson, said that in an average week the Countess of Chester hospital will treat “70-plus” elderly patients who then cannot be discharged because care is not available elsewhere.
Bosses at the Countess, which has a main catchment area of Chester, Deeside and Ellesmere Port, confirmed the statistic and said the hospital was “under significant pressure”.
In the debate about the social care budget and the effect on A&E services, Mr Matheson criticised the Government for “broken promises” on social care funding.
Mr Matheson said: “In any given week at the Countess of Chester hospital, 70-plus elderly patients pitch up and cannot be discharged because care is not available elsewhere.
“We know that the Government broke their promise before the election to sort out funding for long-term care and the King’s Fund recently said that the settlement to which the minister refers will put even more pressure on the NHS.
“Will the minister now accept that that continuing neglect and those broken promises are the key cause of the crisis in our A&E departments?”
In response to the criticism, George Freeman, the parliamentary under secretary of state for health, said that the Government had committed £3.5billion to fund social care.
He said: “Well, Happy New Year! Only Labour could take a £3.5bn commitment to fund social care as ‘more pressure’. We are leading the way in integration, not before time, after 14 years in which Labour did nothing.
“We are leading the way on integration and putting in the extra money. I am delighted to say that, through the £3.8bn for this coming year and the £10bn funding for the NHS Five Year Forward View for transformation, it is the Conservative party that is investing in a 21st century NHS. Labour seems to want to take us back to Call the Midwife.”
In response to Mr Matheson’s comments about discharge numbers at the Countess of Chester Hospital, Lorraine Burnett, interim director of operations, accepted all hospitals are facing challenges.
However, she also highlighted the innovative ways in which the hospital is working to improve the situation through its Rapid Response Team and the hard work of staff at a time of year when services experience increased pressure.
She said: “The hospital is under significant pressure and we have a high number of sick elderly patients who require support to enable them to be discharged safely once they have recovered from their current illness.
“In order to effectively manage safe and timely discharge we have created the first multi-disciplinary Rapid Response team in the country – made up of nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social care assessors.
“The team works with ward staff and community and social care support teams to ensure that when patients are ready for discharge they can safely return to their homes and communities by removing some of the common barriers to discharge.
“Rapid Response has been incredibly successful in improving safe and timely discharge from the Countess. All trusts are experiencing increased pressure at the moment and that will always have an impact.
“People are living longer with long-term conditions, such as heart disease, respiratory illness and diabetes, and this has an effect on both the hospital and our community partners. This situation is exacerbated in winter months, which is why we need the public to make informed choices about how they look after themselves and use other NHS services where appropriate – such as their local pharmacists, GPs and out of hours services.
“It’s important that everybody understands that our staff are working as hard as they can.
“Everybody wants to go home, nobody wants to be in hospital but actually we do provide that cover so that patients are not simply discharged without somewhere safe to go.”
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