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Almost 1,000 elderly people a day needlessly admitted to hospital amid social care crisis

This article was taken from: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/04/almost-1000-elderly-people-day-needlessly-admitted-hospital/

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Almost 1,000 elderly people a day are being admitted to hospital needlessly amid a crisis in social care, Age UK has found.

Analysis of NHS figures by the charity found that there were 341,074 avoidable emergency admissions for people aged 65 and over during the year to April 2017.

The number has risen by 107 per cent since 2003 for those aged 65 to 69, and by 119 per cent for older people aged 75-79.

Among the general population of England, the number has risen by 63 per cent.

The figures relate to admissions because of conditions such as ear, nose or throat infections, kidney and urinary tract infections, and angina, for which hospitalisation could potentially have been avoided had the person been better looked after.

Many older people rely on family and friends to help them in the absence of reliable social care, the charity warned.

One in three over-65s live alone, and one in ten have no children, and these figures are expected to rise as younger generations, who are less likely to have married or had children, reach retirement age.

Many of those who do have loved ones to care for them rely on elderly relatives who may have health problems of their own.

One case study highlighted by the charity involved a 67-year-old woman who has been a carer for 40 years, first for her parents and more recently for a younger sister who has Alzheimer’s disease.

In another case a 73-year-old woman has been the sole carer for her 75-year-old husband since he had a stroke and brain haemorrhage four years earlier. She cancelled previous at-home care because it was “unreliable and lacking in continuity”.

Its report also highlights the problem of older people stuck in hospital and unable to go home, putting more strain on the healthcare system.

Care not being in place was the main reason there were delays for older people leaving hospital in England last year, according to figures released by the NHS.

Why is the NHS under so much pressure?

  • An ageing population. There are one million more people over the age of 65 than five years ago. This has caused a surge in demand for medical care
  • Cuts to budgets for social care. While the NHS budget has been protected, social services for home helps and other care have fallen by 11 per cent in five years. This has caused record levels of “bedblocking”; people with no medical need to be in hospital are stuck there because they can’t be supported at home
  • Staff shortages. While hospital doctor and nurse numbers have risen over the last decade, they have not kept pace with the rise in demand. Meanwhile 2016 saw record numbers of GP practices close, displacing patients on to A&E departments as they seek medical advice
  • Lifestyle factors. Drinking too much alcohol, smoking, a poor diet with not enough fruit and vegetables and not doing enough exercise are all major reasons for becoming unwell and needing to rely on our health services. Growing numbers of overweight children show this problem is currently set to continue

A social care green paper, set to be released this autumn, is due to set out the Government’s plan for reforming the sector. It was originally supposed to be released before the summer recess.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “The safety net for older people living at home has worn dangerously thin after years of underfunding and an absence of workforce planning across both health and care – this is why the numbers of older people whose emergency admissions to hospital could have been avoided are rising so fast.”

Councils warned of a “crisis in adult social care”. Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: “With people living longer, increases in costs and decreases in funding, the system is at breaking point and is ramping up pressures on unpaid carers who are the backbone of the care system.”

A department of health and social care spokesman said: “Patients should only be admitted to hospital when absolutely necessary, and we expect the NHS to work closely with local authorities and ensure people have a care plan in place when they are discharged.

“The Government has committed to a long term plan with a sustainable multi-year settlement for the NHS to help manage growing patient demand.

“Health and social care are two sides of the same coin and reforms must be aligned – that’s why our forthcoming Green Paper will be published in the autumn alongside the NHS plan.”