HEALTH: Pounds 100m from NHS into Community Social Care 'Could Solve Bed-Blocking' Learning Chief Says Cash Is Wasted on Acute Services

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Shipton Chief Reporter

THE Assembly Government should solve the bed blocking crisis by transferring pounds 100m from the NHS into community social care, it is argued.

Adrian Roper, chief executive of Cartrefi Cymru, which supports people with learning disabilities, points out that there have been six reports since 2003 advocating the transfer of resources.

Yet in an article for the Institute of Welsh Affairs' Agenda journal, out today, he says the problem of bed-blocking - where people remain in hospital after treatment because they cannot be cared for at home - remains a major one.

Mr Roper states: "Health services receive the biggest percentage of the Welsh Government's budget, and year after year public officials report that it is not being spent efficiently. The main story is of the money being wasted on high-cost acute services where patients are forced to languish in hospital because of the lack of low-cost services to support their prompt return home. It has been dubbed a vicious circle where more and more money goes into the hospitals to pay for the 'blocked beds' while community care services remain cash starved.

"The answer should be obvious, but the money never moves. Every year a new report calls for greater collaboration between the NHS and social care agencies in order to achieve synergy and seamless services. But the money never moves."

Mr Roper points out that the 2008-09 Welsh budget for social services is pounds 110m.

He argues: "It is decidedly not a large sum for assuring the basic health and dignity of hundreds of thousands of people suffering from pain, confusion, despair or chronic social exclusion. In contrast, the Welsh NHS received pounds 4.5779bn in 2006-07. That is about 42 times more than social services. The comparison between funding levels needs to be made in order to bring to the service the current gap between the resources deployed for citizen care in the community and those deployed for patient care in hospitals, surgeries and clinics."

Mr Roper examines budget lines for NHS Wales in 2006-07, identifying several which he thinks could partly be transferred to social care in the community.

He states: "One must start with the pounds 608m for 'Unknown Programme Category'. …