William Eichler 03 November 2016

Underfunding of adult social care increases pressure on A&E

Whitehall ‘urgently’ needs to address the underfunding of adult social care to relieve pressure on A&E departments, MPs say.

A health committee report into winter planning has warned a shortfall in social care provision means people will continue to face avoidable admission and delayed discharge from hospital.

For major emergency departments in 2015, only 88% of patients were admitted, transferred or discharged within 4 hours, well short of the 95% standard set by the Government.

‘Accident and Emergency departments in England are managing unprecedented levels of demand,’ said committee chair Dr Sarah Wollaston MP.

‘The pressures are now continuing year round without the traditional respite over the summer months as departments try to cope with increasing numbers of patients with complex needs.’

The committee found some trusts are supporting patient flow out of hospitals by creating their own services that provide social care.

However, it warned these initiatives have a limited scope because of the financial pressures trusts are under.

The health committee also discovered that inadequate infrastructure funding means many emergency departments will struggle to manage demand.

Responding to the committee’s findings, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) community wellbeing board, said: ‘Councils have long argued that pumping money into the NHS while making cuts to adult social care is a false economy.

‘Unless social care is properly funded, the NHS is in real danger of collapse.

‘No one’s elderly parents, grandparents or friends should be left unnecessarily in a hospital bed, when they could be treated in the comfort and dignity of their own home.

‘The only way this will work is if councils get a fairer share of the funding available to enable them to alleviate the pressures on the NHS.’

Janet Morrison, chief executive of the older people’s charity Independent Age, said: ‘Week after week we are seeing reports of a health and care system in crisis. And today we are hearing yet another gloomy diagnosis of how bad things have become, this time in A&E departments where waiting time targets are being missed for the frail and sick to be admitted, discharged or transferred.

‘When we are learning that ambulances are struggling to attend to new emergencies because of capacity problems in hospitals, we really do have to wonder how dysfunctional the system has to become before the Government takes action.

‘A good start would be to use the upcoming Autumn Statement to improve funding for social care. The alternative can only ever lead to mounting pressures at local hospitals - and depressingly, more elderly people turning up at A&E.’

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