Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) will collapse unless action is taken to improve care for elderly patients outside of hospitals to free up much needed beds for other inpatients, Health Minister Norman Lamb has warned.
Lamb said that the NHS is under huge pressure from an ageing
population, with the number of elderly patients suffering chronic
and complex health problems growing and that tackling it would be
“the challenge of the 21st century.”
“Accident and Emergency [A&E] units are under pressure,
ambulances are carrying more patients than they should, significant
numbers of people are in hospital who should be cared for
elsewhere. The system is becoming dysfunctional and we need to do
something about it,” Lamb told the Telegraph.
While one of Britain’s most senior A&E doctors, Dr. Cliff
Mann, from the College of Emergency Medicine, said that they had
begun to feel like “war zones,” and that many doctors were
turning their backs on emergency medicine.
The current funding system where hospitals have a financial
incentive to hang on to patients is at the heart of the problem and
currently there is no reward for a hospital to get patients to
In an attempt to address the issue, minsters will announce
Tuesday plans to co-ordinate NHS services and councils to make sure
than more is done to organize home-help for elderly patients or
make basic adaptations to their home so that they can return there
rather than languishing in hospitals.
A series of pilot schemes will be set up to test more joined up
ways for health and social care providers to work together. The
plan is that the schemes will be expanded to every part of the
country by 2015.
“At the moment the system is horribly fragmented and that
means bad care – distress, crises occurring that could be avoided,
massive disruption to people’s lives. If we carry on as we are the
system will collapse,” said Lamb.
Hospital regulators have also announced a review of the NHS
funding system to encourage hospitals to release patients
Other plans which could be implemented under the review include
giving elderly patients their own personal NHS worker who would
manage all their care needs including home help and physiotherapy,
as well as medical treatment.
While the system of paying doctors for completing specific
activities will also be overhauled so that they are only rewarded
for actual improvements in a patient’s health.
Lamb’s announcement comes just days after David Prior, the head
of the UK’s Care Quality Commission (CQC), the leading UK health
watchdog, said that acute beds for the elderly must be closed and
that admissions through A&E are out of control.
Robert Francis QC, who conducted the review into failings at the
Mid-Staffordshire NHS trust, which led to the deaths of 1,200
people between 2005 and 2009, told the Nursing Times that while
doctors and hospital managers understood that serious changes need
to be made, certain members of the nursing profession were not
taking the problem seriously enough.