Care providers ask for doubled fees to care for people discharged from hospitals

Care England says current funding is ‘inadequate’ if homes are to pay staff more and manage rehabilitation

Care providers are demanding double the usual fees to look after thousands of people who need to be discharged from hospitals to ease the crisis in the NHS.

Care England, which represents the largest private care home providers, said on Sunday it wanted the government to pay them £1,500 a week per person, citing the need to pay care workers more and hire rehabilitation specialists so people languishing in hospital can eventually be sent home.

The rate is about double what most local authorities currently pay for care home beds, an amount Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, described as “inadequate”.

The demand comes as the health secretary, Steve Barclay promised “urgent action” with up to £250m in new funding for the NHS to buy care beds to clear wards of medically fit patients. The money will be used to buy beds in care homes, hospices and hotels where people are looked after by homecare providers, as well as pay for hospital upgrades. Stays will be no longer than four weeks until the end of March.

The use of hotels as care homes began during the pandemic and has been controversial, with reports of problems with hygiene and supplies of specialist equipment. The charity Age UK last week criticised their renewed use as “not an appropriate place to provide high-quality care for older people in need of support to recuperate after a spell in hospital”.

Barclay will also announce longer-term trials in six areas for ways to rehabilitate more people in the community than in hospital. These include “dementia hubs” in Greater Manchester, better co-ordination between hospitals and social care in Croydon, and an “active recovery service” based in the community in Leeds.

The money would be on top of the £500m allocated to social care in the autumn statement, although when asked on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg show how much of that had so far been distributed, the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, could not answer.

“It needs to be at least £1,500 a week,” said Green, who represents most of the largest for-profit chains. “You need to bring in more staff to manage people’s recovery patterns and you may need to separate the discharged residents out in a separate unit.”

He warned that if the funding for discharge beds was left to councils paying their usual rates “it will not work”, but said higher rates would still be cheaper than keeping people in hospital who are awaiting discharge.

The lack of available capacity in the social care system has been blamed for many of the 13,000 people languishing on wards. The backlog is viewed as a cause of blockages in accident and emergency departments. However, other care operators are reporting vacancies and puzzlement that their beds are not being used to ease congestion.

Nadra Ahmed, chair of the National Care Association, which represents smaller independent care operators with about 32,000 beds, said: “I have message after message from people saying they have capacity but are not being contacted. One provider said they don’t know what is happening because they normally run at 100% [capacity at this time of year] but they are 80%.”

She said there appeared to be a “communication breakdown”. Extra funding would be welcome, she said, and would help deliver more places and “be used to properly recruit staff at the level we are not going to lose them to Sainsbury’s”.

There are 165,000 vacancies in the social care sector in England. Average care worker pay is £9.50 an hour – below that of a novice healthcare assistant in the NHS, a McDonald’s crew member or an Amazon warehouse picker.

Sunak declined to answer whether he would work as a care worker for £18,000 a year when asked by Kuenssberg. Asked if he could ever fix the problems in social care when care workers earned well below the average wage, he replied: “There’s a range of different things to make sure people in social care do feel valued and part of that actually is giving them a sense of qualifications, professional training and development and a sense of career progression … it’s not just about how much people are paid.”


Robert Booth Social affairs correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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