Suffolk faces £100 fine for bed blockers

FINES of £100 a day are to be imposed on Suffolk's social services department for every bed-blocker it fails to move on from the start of the New Year.

FINES of £100 a day are to be imposed on Suffolk's social services department for every bed-blocker it fails to move on from the start of the New Year.

But the county council has been handed a £2 million fund to meet the cost of the fines and to find other ways of tackling bed-blocking in hospitals.

The Government cash for the next two years, is to be used to reimburse acute hospitals at rate of £100 a day for any delays in discharge down to social services.

Delays in discharge are when patients are ready to leave hospitals for a nursing home, for example, but there is nowhere available or suitable for them to go.

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There were 89 bed-blockers in acute hospital trusts in Suffolk on October 24, plus another 106 at community hospitals.

The fines are part of the Community Care Act 2003, which comes into force on January 1.

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Terry Green, executive committee member with responsibility for social care, said: “The important thing is the money we are pay in these fines stays in the system and goes towards reducing delayed transfers of care. If not, it will make it even more difficult for everyone.

“We knew the fines were coming in and we've been working closely with the primary care trusts and hospitals.

“We are hoping to turn this into an opportunity and use the money to really reduce delayed transfers of care.”

Mr Green said the NHS targets on delayed discharges were met in March but there was a “blip” during the summer. Numbers had fallen “considerably” since then, he added.

“There are a number of causes for delayed transfers. The hospitals have been very busy and that has a knock-on effect, and 25% of delayed transfers of care are through personal choice, where they choose where they want to go,” said Mr Green.

“We need more intermediate care and transitional beds and we've got to get smarter and make sure we know where people can go when they go in to hospital, rather than waiting until they are ready to come out.”

The Government has given social services an extra boost by providing six months' worth of cash - £656,000 - for the remaining three months of the financial year after the new fines system begins. Suffolk will then receive £1.3m for 2004/05.

A report going to the council's executive committee on November 20 reads: “The intention of the scheme is not that social services should make reimbursement payments to the NHS, but provide an incentive to invest in a range of services, which prevent delays occurring in the first place.”

The problem of bed-blocking is not being helped by a number of nursing homes continuing to refuse to take council-funded patients, the report adds.

Many homes have taken the stance over what they feel are inadequate payments from the council.

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