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Concern that freeing up beds in Scotland’s hospitals could lead to visiting bans

Updated: May 10, 2023

The Care Home Relatives Scotland group are concerned that the plan to move people from hospitals to care homes to relieve bed blocking could increase the spread of illnesses, much like during the Covid-19 pandemic.


Scottish ministers hope the £8m plan will reduce the number of people in hospital who do not need to be there.


Concern about more infection being brought in to care homes


The social care sector has warned more staff are needed to make the plan work.


Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said 300 care home beds have been found for a “limited period of time” that can be used on an interim basis, in addition to the 600 interim beds that are already being used.


Mr Yousaf admitted that the care home beds would not be the first or even second choice of many patients or their families.


Sheila Hall, of Care Home Relatives Scotland, said the families of existing care home residents are concerned that discharging more patients from hospital into such settings may increase infections, leading to homes being closed to visitors.


She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Our group is set up to be the voice of the residents that are actually in care homes.


” We were set up in response to the disaster that happened during Covid in care homes, and we are terrified we are going to see once again more infections being brought in because of people discharged from hospital, and restrictions on our ability to spend meaningful time with our loved ones.”


She added that many people “are terrified there is going to be a knock-on effect that will close the homes again” as a result of the interim care home beds plan.


Majority of people leaving hospital want to return to their own homes


Rachel Cackett, chief executive the Coalition of Care and Support Providers, said: “For a small number of people, for a short period of time, this £8m could make a difference but the majority of people who can’t leave hospital because they need support in that transition it is because they need to go back to their own home.


“We talk about beds, but beds are furniture, what you need is people to staff them and that’s the crisis we are facing in social care.”


Ms Cackett added that if a longer-term plan is not in place for the people being put into the interim beds, then “we really are kicking the can down the road”.


‘Best possible choice’


Mr Yousaf told MSPs on Tuesday that buying care home places is an “extremis, time-limited measure, that is required to help us with the current capacity issues that we face” in Scotland’s hospitals – which have been operating at about 95% of capacity.


He said the “additional funding is intended to meet the increased costs of utilising these beds for a short period of time”.


He added: “These interim beds may not be a family’s first, or indeed second, choice for their relative.


“But I hope families agree in the current circumstances this is about making the best possible choice for those in our care.”


Long term planning


Purchasing of care home beds must only be seen as a short-term measure. Many observers of social care provision in the UK recognise that the bed blocking situation in hospitals demanded action. But this needs to be accompanied by long term planning otherwise we will return to a similar situation next winter.


Summary


No one would dispute that the bed blocking situation in hospitals demanded urgent action. But surely this must be perceived as an interim measure. However, there will be a price to pay. We can now see all sorts of ramifications coming to the fore. People are being denied choice, as the majority would wish to return to their own homes and not forced to live in a care home.


The Care Home Relatives Scotland group are concerned for their members who fear the admitting people directly from hospital will increase the likelihood of a return of Covid to care homes; leading to homes being closed to visitors.


Ministers in Scotland and the UK in general must recognise that there is no substitute for long term planning and get to grips with the problems that have beseeched social care for more than a decade.


Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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