People sent to care homes more than 450 miles away from home

“One in five care home residents have been sent out of their local area, with some stranded more than 450 miles from families and friends, according to official data revealed under freedom of information (FOI) laws.

In the worst cases, frail or vulnerable people are being taken from five local authority areas in London and southern England to Glasgow and northeast Scotland, because beds are unavailable at home or cheaper elsewhere.

More than two thirds of the local authorities which responded to the FOI request said they had sent somebody at least 125 miles away.

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s shadow minister for social care, who found the information, said: “This makes a mockery of the government’s claim that they want people to receive care at home.”

The human cost of the policy was described as “heartbreaking” by Judy Downey, chief executive of the charity Relatives and Residents Association. On average, one in 10 care home residents never receive any visitors.

“If [friends and family] can’t get there, frankly it doesn’t matter if it is five miles away or 500,” she said. “Often people have more information about their weekend break in Paris than they are ever going to get on what goes on in a care home.”

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, which represents independent social care services, said: “Local authorities just look for where they can find a bed . . . It’s a really huge issue because people should not be removed from their communities or their families.”

Source: Sunday Times (pay wall)

Mental health care: shocking system laid bare

Owl says: how much more has been swept under the austerity carpet?

“In the aftermath of the Winterbourne View care home scandal Jeremy Hunt pledged to make improving the care of vulnerable patients a central mission of his time as health secretary.

But despite speeches, policy documents, steering groups and delivery groups two reports next week will lay bare the continued failure of the system to protect those least able to help themselves. One of those reports was commissioned by Mr Hunt’s successor and Tory leadership rival, Matt Hancock. He won’t be thanking him for it.

Part of the problem is political. For example, despite introducing minimum standards for how adults on mental health wards should be treated in 2014, no such standards exist for children. For that, responsibility rests with ministers.

They are also responsible for a system that provides no incentives to minimise the use of expensive in-patient mental health beds. Those beds are paid for by the NHS whereas community care is paid for by stretched local authorities.

The NHS itself should not be absolved of blame. One former Conservative health minister said they had been shocked by just how unresponsive NHS leaders were to reform. It is certainly true that the NHS has jealously guarded its freedom to set spending priorities.

Finally, despite being the authors of one of the reports the Care Quality Commission, which inspects mental health units, bears some responsibility. That it took a minister, under pressure from the media, to uncover the continued failure of these units is shocking.”

Source: Times (pay wall)

“Around 50 hospital beds are blocked each day by patients fit to leave at the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust”

Owl says: In the past many of these patients would have been transferred to local community hospitals, where they would be rehabilitated to go home or moved to local facilities, leaving RDE to use the unblocked beds for new acute patients:

“With elderly patients often stuck waiting to be signed off, there is concern over the impact delays can have on their health.

According to the NHS, a hospital stay of more than 10 days for a person over 80 can lead to 10 years of muscle ageing.

NHS England figures show that in February, patients at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust spent a total of 1,398 days waiting to be discharged or transferred to a different care facility. …”

“Rising age of East Devon residents will be one of the highest in the UK”

New figures show that the district will have one of the highest ratios of retirement-age residents in England.

Economic experts say higher taxes or lower spending will be needed to cope with the costs of the UK’s ageing population.

According to the main population projections done by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) there are currently 43,082 people of pension age in East Devon and 77,786 of working age.

The ratio, produced by the ONS, takes into account migration from overseas and other parts of the UK, based on trends for the past 10 years.

It’s predicted that by 2026 there’ll be 574 people eligible for a state pension for every 1,000 still working.

Previous projections show the current rate is 554.

It also considers the gradual increase in the retirement age introduced by the Government. By 2026 it will reach 67.

David Sturrock, research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said the ratio provided a useful measure for the pressure an ageing population will place on society.

He said: “We think there needs to be some response to demographic pressures, either through spending reduction, tax rises, or some combination of both.

“Some steps have been made, such as raising the state pension age, but on current trends the ageing population will continue to grow, and it will demand action from politicians.”

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “Many will be surprised by how much older people contribute to society including a great deal of knowledge, skill and energy. Whether they are volunteers, informal carers or paid employees, many are redefining what it means to be ‘an older person’.

“Our creaking social care system has been chronically underfunded for years and will simply not be able to cope with the extra demand that an ageing population will bring unless substantial funding is found.

“We also need to create age friendly communities that offer a good quality of life across the generations, by designing environments that are safe and pleasant to live in, with good local facilities and open spaces.

“If we can get this right it will help to sustain the health, well-being and quality of life for everyone, regardless of age.”

5 days (again!) to local elections – today’s pictures

Community hospital beds closed in Axminster, Seaton, Honiton and Ottery St Mary. EDDC Tories refuse to list the them as community assets, DCC Tories don’t want to discuss it either. There are simply not enough community staff to look after vulnerable people in their own homes:

‘There’s no money to provide ‘Care in the Community’…but we have just enough to move him into the carpark!’

‘That IS her care pathway.’

‘This is one of our elderly patients, or to use the technical term ‘bedblocker’.’

“Amount of NHS land in England earmarked for sale soars, figures show”

Ministers have been accused of “selling off the NHS family silver” after figures revealed that the amount of health service land being earmarked for sale to private developers is soaring.

The NHS is seeking buyers for 718 different plots of land or buildings it owns across England, prompting fears that underfunding has forced cash-strapped NHS trusts to dispose of vital assets.

The total of 718 sites represents a 72% rise on the 418 plots the NHS deemed as surplus to requirements two years ago.

Nurses priced out of housing developments on former NHS sites

The number of sites on the market that NHS bosses say are currently being used for clinical or medical purposes is also rising fast, from 117 last year to 140 – almost one in five of the total.

Seven of the top 10 sites with the highest value fall into that category. They include a part of Heatherwood hospital in Ascot, Berkshire – which is used by patients from Theresa May’s nearby Maidenhead constituency – valued at £35m, and part of the site of Birmingham’s City hospital (£18.8m).

Labour said the figures, contained in the NHS’s annual register of land for sale, showed that hospitals were being forced into a “firesale of assets” after years of being starved of resources while the government had restricted annual budget rises to 1% since 2010.

“Hospitals are struggling to cope with cutbacks from the Tories. The answer should be a serious long-term government-funded investment plan and not selling off the NHS’s family silver,” said Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary.

Last year a government-commissioned report by Sir Robert Naylor, a former University College London hospital chief executive, said the NHS could raise £6bn from taking a more “commercial approach” to disposing of land.

Ministers approve of the growing selloffs, which they say will help generate receipts that NHS trusts can then use to redevelop their facilities and build homes for staff.

The British Medical Association, which represents doctors, voiced unease. It said the selloffs were short-sighted and could leave hospitals with too little space to expand in future.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the chair of the BMA council, said: “These figure show a staggering increase in sale of NHS land in the last two years. This begs serious questions as to the reason for this surge. Was this land actually surplus or are these sales being used to plug financial deficits in hospital trusts as a result of a decade of underfunding?

“It is vital to safeguard the sale of NHS land and estate from perverse short-term financial incentives, and which may result in a reduction in estate and facilities that is insufficient to meet the future needs of patients. These figures demand scrutiny. Selling land shouldn’t be a way for the health service to make up for austerity-era cuts – especially if it could come at the expense of patient care.”

The total amount of land involved in the NHS asset sale has grown from 545.7 hectares (1,348 acres) in 2015-16 to 1,332 hectares in 2016-17 and 1,749.4 hectares last year, according to research undertaken by the House of Commons library for Ashworth.

The Department of Health and Social Care defended the rise in sales. A spokesperson said: “As part of the long-term plan for the NHS we are committed to making taxpayers’ money go further, including getting the best use out of the land and buildings the NHS owns.

“We are helping trusts dispose of surplus land or buildings so that money is saved and spent instead on improving patient care, whilst freeing up space for much needed new homes, including for NHS staff.”