It is a symptom of the social care crisis that hospitals find it so hard to discharge people who are well enough to leave
The NHS and social care systems need more money. If there is anything else that they need as much, it is honesty from the government. Post-Covid, the UK’s health systems are in a perilously fragile state. As analysis by the Guardian showed this week, logjams created by delayed discharges appear to be getting worse. An average of 13,600 hospital beds in England are occupied by patients with nowhere else to go. As well as making new admissions impossible, unnecessarily long stays can make it harder for people to regain their independence after leaving. So far, a £500m emergency fund promised by ministers to ease the pressure has failed to materialise.
It is a symptom of the social care crisis that hospitals find it so hard to discharge people who are well enough to leave. Last year, Jeremy Hunt, then chair of parliament’s health and care committee, said social care needed £7bn annually, not the £1.7bn over three years that ministers promised. Chronic workforce shortages in the sector, which are linked to funding shortfalls and inadequate pay, are one reason why social care capacity lags so far behind demand – leading to blockages throughout the health system. Currently there are an estimated 165,000 social care vacancies, after 50,000 staff quit last year.