Lack of home care clogs U.K. hospitals

Jan. 5, 2011 at 3:29 PM
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LONDON, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- British doctors say people who are fit to leave the hospital are not being discharged because they have no access to vital care services at home.

They blamed local councils for making it more difficult for older people on the National Health Service to access home help for vital tasks such as eating and washing, forcing them to stay in the hospital unnecessarily, The Guardian reported Tuesday.

Councils' recent restrictions on access to social care by redefining the eligibility criteria have left older people trapped in hospitals because they cannot afford to return to living independently at home, physician groups say.

This leads to some patients with serious medical conditions being denied immediate admission to a hospital because healthy patients are occupying beds, said Dr. Mark Porter, chairman of the British Medical Association's hospital consultants committee.

"I would estimate that several thousand such patients are in the NHS at any one time -- that's a fairly significant problem," Porter said. "It's very distressing for individual patients, of great concern to the medical profession and an organizational problem for the NHS."

"If you have a core of people who should be moving on but aren't, your capacity to respond to new admissions is diminished and that leads to inefficiency and increased cost," he said.

The Department of Health said it was making an extra $250 million available between now and the start of April to help patients leave the hospital sooner.

"It's really important, particularly at this time of year, that we help people to leave (the) hospital as quickly as they can, when they are ready," Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said.

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