Op-Ed: Bed blocking is making British headline news again but what lies behind that derogatory term?
Where to start?
If you are an NHS hospital patient classed as medically fit but not able to return home you may be called a bed-blocker. It could be that you need adaptations to your home prior discharge or that you need a place in a care home, either temporarily or permanently, but whatever the reason your status as patient changes to bed-blocker.
With NHS beds and services stretched bed-blockers can hit admissions; the dominio effect comes into play and the service begins to crumble.
Because perhaps after care is not readily available the whole system is under threat; remember 'for want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost, for want of a horse a battle was lost?'
The British government claims an increase in beds being blocked is down to our increasingly aged population, people living longer, and other reasons but shies away from some home truths.
Here in my Yorkshire city the closure of an old hospital that provided sometimes long-term care helped start the rot.
Losing so many beds was always going to have a knock on effect.
Plans to improve care in the community soon failed.
Old wards at other hospitals across the city closed although to be fair new buildings such as dedicated cancer, cardiology and ophthalmology centres should have eased the situation.
But when you live in a city with a vast range of social and economic problems you can hardly compete or compare with a rural hospital located in a wealthy rural area of the country.
The NHS has to roll with the punches that often come from central government.
When you work for the NHS you soon realise that work for this health service provider long enough and you will see changes come around and around. In the end you will be back at square one but it will have been a costly game.
The cost comes in funding and in personal hardship to patients.
Bed blocking is a fact of the 21st century NHS.
Chief executives of various trusts across the country receive huge pay deals but tend to shuffle off in a few years with a hefty pay off tucked under their belt. Some then go on to take another job in the NHS and on it goes.
With a Tory government that wants to privatise the NHS, full stop, negatives such as bed blocking are widely publicised.
However the reasons for people staying in hospital after being classed medically fit are complex.
A great deal of time and money is spent working out who is fit and good to go although maybe not quite able to.
In some areas half-way home care centres are being established but look carefully at who owns and runs such centres and the warning signs are there.
Cuts in social care budgets and support workers mean some patients will invariably be stuck on a hospital ward waiting for discharge. That has a negative effect on the patient and their loved ones.
The only way to address bed blocking is:
Bed blocking news reporting tends to be ageist but it is not just older citizens that find themselves caught in an NHS trap.
Outbreaks of the winter vomiting bug close wards and prevent patient discharge to care homes. Young people also suffer strokes, heart atacks, brain injury and other illnesses which can require long-term aftercare.
And when you are stuck on a ward waiting for discharge your physical and mental well-being may suffer.
But when you are called a bed-blocker you may feel you have no identity, are just a waste of space and a drain on resources. That has to be wrong.
[A report by Labour peer Lord Carter highlights the problems of bed blocking while saying million of pounds can be saved by 2020 with a rethink of working practices. Me I wonder what Lord Carter was paid to undertake that study and justwhich decade NHS staff and patients will be taken back to on this never ending merry-go-round of change]