Elderly hospital-leaving warning

Wales' Health Minister has set out plans to reduce the pressure on A&E departments here. The charity Age Cymru is warning that older patients must not be pressured to leave hospital too soon, and without the right support.

Concerns over plans for discharging patients quicker

by Carl Edwards

Less than 24 hours after announcing plans to deal with the unprecedented pressures A&E departments around Wales have been facing, the Health Minister is already facing criticism.

Charities have warned that plans to bring an end to so-called 'bed blocking' could result in patients being pressured to leave hospital before they are ready, or there is not adequate support for them at home.

'£1 spent on older person's home saves £7.50'

The charity Care & Repair Cymru says "one of the most cost effective ways" to make sure patients are discharged from hospital on time is improving older people's housing.

It estimates that for every £1 spent adapting an older person’s home, £7.50 is saved to NHS and social service budgets.

Most older people prefer to be at home and such investment, targeted at higher risk frail older people would prevent or reduce the number of hospital admissions in the first place, but if older people are waiting to return home, then investment to increase and speed up adaptations and other home improvements that enable them to live safely at home make huge sense.

We have many examples of older patients who have been in hospital, wanting to return home, but their properties are unsuitable.

– Chris Jones, Chief Executive of Care & Repair Cymru

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Charity: Elderly must not be left to fend for themselves

Age Cymru says it welcomes the Health Minister's "intention to make sure that people are cared for in the most appropriate place."

The charity says: "it is unacceptable that many older people are currently forced to stay in hospitals for longer than they need to because of delays in assessing their needs or arranging suitable places for them to be discharged to", but says that it has significant concerns.

We must develop a system where the help and support that somebody needs on discharge can be put in place quickly, whether that is back at home or in a residential or nursing home.

However, it would not be right for older people or their families to be put under undue pressure to leave hospital before they are able to do so.

The right support and information must be provided so that people aren’t left to fend for themselves at an extremely difficult and emotional time.

– Graeme Francis, Head of Policy and Public Affairs for Age Cymru

Older patients 'must not be pressured to leave hospital'

Age Cymru has warned that older people should not be forced out of hospital beds, in an attempt to reduce A&E pressures. Credit: PA

The charity Age Cymru has warned that older people should not be "put under undue pressure to leave hospital before they are able to do so."

It follows the Health Minister Mark Drakeford's announcement of "immediate actions" to cut waiting times in A&E departments, including freeing-up beds "by ensuring when patients no longer require hospital treatment, they are discharged in a timely manner."

'Immediate actions' to tackle extreme A&E pressures

Wales' Health Minister has set out "immediate actions" to reduce the extreme pressures on emergency health services.

Mark Drakeford is focusing on tackling "lengthy patient handover delays at A&E departments" and freeing-up beds by getting patients to leave hospital quickly when they are ready.

He says all local health boards have submitted plans on how they will improve.

Last month, doctors wrote to the Health Minister warning that emergency departments "are at the point of meltdown".

Earlier in March, patients had to wait in ambulances outside hospitals due to packed A&E departments.

Read More: Doctors' letter warns emergency departments 'seriously overcrowded'

Read More: 999 delays feared as ambulances queue outside hospitals

Over the past six months, the demand for emergency care services has risen steeply, due mainly to the number of acutely ill elderly patients being admitted to A&E departments.

More work needs to be undertaken to free up beds by ensuring when patients no longer require hospital treatment, they are discharged in a timely manner.

I am also keen to address the consistent finding that too many people are attending our A&E departments unnecessarily.

The way we introduce a non-emergency helpline in Wales will be vital and I have asked for plans for an NHS 111 number to be accelerated where possible.

– Mark Drakeford, Welsh Government Health Minister