Headlines: May 18th, 2004

There has been a significant drop in the number of patients forced to wait to leave hospital, with the Government claiming the reduction in delayed discharges is the equivalent of creating eight extra NHS hospitals.The latest figures show the number of people whose release from hospital is being delayed now stands at more than 4,000 fewer than before the start of the ‘Cash for Change’ programme, which began in late 2001. The number in September 2001 was 7,065 and the provisional figures for March this year are 2,895.

Since January this year local authorities have to reimburse the NHS at a standard rate of a hundred pounds a day for delays in hospital discharge if they result from the council’s failure to provide the necessary assessments or services for a patient. In London and the South East the payments are higher. The charging system was introduced in ‘shadow’ form from last October. The new figures show that reductions in delayed discharges, which had slowed during last year, increased again with the introduction of the payment system. Between December 2002 and September 2003 the number of delayed discharges fell by only just over 300 and still stood at more than 4000.

The Cash for Change programme began in October 2001 and provided 300 million pounds to local councils over two years to ensure they had the capacity to care for people being discharged from hospital who needed extra support. Councils also receive additional money under the Delayed Discharges Grant to ensure they can continue to make progress.