Responding to the Public Accounts Committee’s report on discharging older people from hospitals, RCP president, Professor Jane Dacre, provides her view.
The UK is facing an ageing population at a time when the NHS is already struggling to cope. Staff shortage is a major barrier. Between 2014-2015 up to 40% of advertised consultant vacancies could not be filled. The gaps in the NHS workforce are having a significant impact on doctors’ ability to quickly and safely discharge people.
Delivering care in a more home like environment is often a safer alternative and we know that the longer an older person stays in hospital, their risk of falling increases. They can often be delayed leaving hospital because the support they need in the community isn’t there. Healthcare for older people must be focused around the prevention of admission. This will require further joining up of both health and social care.
The NHS needs to be a flexible healthcare system that isn’t restricted to the bricks and mortar of the hospital building. We need to design a truly integrated care system for older people - with many of the principles we see in our current landmark Future Hospital Programme development sites. A patient focused NHS won’t be realised if social care funding is further reduced because the NHS is already under-doctored and overstretched. Action must be taken to overcome the impact these challenges have for patient outcomes.
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