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Moving Patients into Social Care

Volume 721: debated on Tuesday 1 November 2022

9. What steps he is taking to help move patients who no longer need acute care from hospitals into social care settings. (901954)

When a patient no longer needs acute hospital care, they are usually better off outside hospital and that frees up their bed for somebody else. Delayed discharges are nothing new, but they have been getting worse in part because of the shortage of social care. That is why the Government have announced £500 million to speed up discharges from hospital into social care this winter.

Warrington is at least 90 beds short in terms of step-down care. A local hospital has too many long-term patients who simply cannot be discharged because there is nowhere for them to go. I am told there is capital funding available. We have two local NHS trusts, a local authority and the integrated care board, which is no longer in Warrington but now in Liverpool, but no action is being taken. Will the Minister come to Warrington to meet local NHS leaders and me, so we can secure access for patients who are spending too long in acute hospital care?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about patients spending too long in acute care in his own hospital. We know this is affecting other people around the country. I am very happy to meet him and I would very much like to visit his hospital and speak to his NHS, the local authority and other stakeholders to ensure we can improve the situation.

Tony Hickmott is an autistic man who was detained in an in-patient unit for 22 years, often in near total seclusion, against his wishes and those of his parents, Pam and Roy. Tony now has his own home in the community, but the NHS spent £11 million on his detention in the last nine years after doctors considered him fit for discharge. Can the Minister comment on the wasted years Tony and his family spent fighting to get him free? What will she do to release the 2,000 other autistic people and people with learning disabilities detained in in-patient settings who would receive far more effective care in the community?

The hon. Member raises Tony’s individual case, which is very hard to hear about. She and I know there are too many others in this situation. She will know, too, that I listened to this when I was formerly a Health Minister. It is a difficult problem to solve, but we should absolutely continue to work with the NHS, the Care Quality Commission and local authorities to ensure people who are not benefiting from being in in-patient settings are able to get the care and support they need in the community.

The previous Health Secretary promised £500 million social care discharge funding for this winter, but it is 1 November and not a single penny of that money has been seen. I am afraid that the political chaos and incompetence over the last few weeks means that local services cannot properly plan and thousands more elderly people are trapped in hospitals when they do not need to be, with all the knock-on consequences for the rest of the NHS. Will the Minister now tell us: is this money still available? When will it be released? Can she guarantee that it will be genuinely new funding, not found from cuts made elsewhere?

I am sure the hon. Member heard the answer I gave a moment ago to a similar question. I absolutely acknowledge the challenge of discharges. The challenge is nothing new, but it has indeed worsened, in part due to the availability of social care. That is one reason why the Government have announced the £500 million discharge fund. I am just a few days into this job—[Interruption.] I am looking at the proposals on how this will—[Interruption.] If she will listen, I am looking to make sure that we allocate that money effectively, because we know that money is tight and we must absolutely make sure that every penny of the funding is well spent on improving the discharge from hospital to people’s homes.