Patients will be paid up to £400 to leave their hospital beds in a scheme to free up space on wards by helping towards expenses such as carers’ transport costs or childcare
- A fifth of beds are occupied by patients who are medically fit to leave but cannot
- The Age UK charity last night gave the new scheme a cautious welcome
- Almost 1.75 million days are lost to what is termed ‘delayed transfers of care’
Patients will be paid up to £400 to vacate their hospital beds in a scheme designed to free up space on wards.
A fifth of hospital beds are occupied by patients who are medically fit to leave but cannot. Often they are waiting for a care home place or another type of support.
The cash payments for incidental expenses such as the carer’s transport costs or childcare are intended to make it financially easier for a friend or relative to look after the patient temporarily and allow them to leave hospital.
Patients will be paid up to £400 to vacate their hospital beds in a scheme designed to free up space on wards (stock image)
Women ‘failed by firms with no policy on IVF’
Employers are letting down women who need IVF, with nearly half of firms having no policy in place to support workers, a survey has found.
The situation leaves many unsure if they can take time off in the same way they would for other medical appointments, say campaigners.
The survey, commissioned by IVF provider Create Fertility and working parent organisation Cityparents, found that 48 per cent of women who responded said their employer had no policy regarding what time off or support they could expect if they needed IVF.
Gwenda Burns, of charity Fertility Network UK, said: ‘Most people experiencing fertility problems are reluctant to speak to their employer as they fear it may have a detrimental effect on their career.’
The Age UK charity last night gave the scheme a cautious welcome. Director Caroline Abrahams said: ‘Given the difficult situation in many hospitals, creating the opportunity to pay a small amount of money to a family member or friend to help them take on the care of a loved one when they are discharged makes sense.
‘But it’s unlikely to be relevant to very many people and its use is also restricted, covering only ancillary expenses like childcare and travel.’
She added: ‘Although the vast majority of families want only the best for their older relatives, the policy also carries a risk that the money could be misused in some situations, leaving the older person without the support they need.
‘This places a special responsibility on hospital staff to exercise good judgment in how they use the policy.’
Each hospital bed blocked costs the NHS about £400 a day, with almost 1.75 million days lost in the year to February 2020 in England to what is officially termed ‘delayed transfers of care’.
About half of the delays are caused by a lack of ongoing care for the patient, either because there is no available place in a residential or care home or because a home-help package has not been arranged.
A document setting out the new policy says the cash should be given out only when doing so will bring forward the patient’s discharge by at least two days.
It adds that health chiefs administering the scheme must ensure ‘the proposed spend clearly represents value for money’, record what the money is intended to be spent on and ensure the patient is not discharged before it is medically safe to do so.
For so-called ‘direct payments’ – when money is sent to an individual’s account or paid in cash – the document says it must not be spent on ‘alcohol, tobacco, gambling or debt repayments, or anything that is illegal’. The paper does not set out how this will be enforced.
A fifth of hospital beds are occupied by patients who are medically fit to leave but cannot (stock image)
NHS managers can also arrange to pay a patient or carer’s costs directly, meaning no money changes hands.
The initiative is an extension of the existing ‘personal health budgets’ scheme which sees disabled people and those with long-term conditions provided with a nominal sum to spend on care and equipment, although this is not sent to accounts or paid in cash.
Ms Abrahams said the new scheme was ‘not a game-changer’, adding: ‘Older people and hospitals alike need the Government to tackle the shortage of community care staff.
‘We can’t magic thousands of new care staff at the drop of a hat, but serious investment into the care workforce now would at least discourage even more from leaving.’