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Welsh bed-blocking deals exposed

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Welsh councils and health trusts should stop using deals that mask the level of bed blocking, auditor general Jeremy Colman has warned.

He said delays in discharging hospital patients into social care at home cost£69m in 2006-07, when the number of delays fell but their length increased.

The scale of the problem was distorted where councils and the NHS had an agreed period after a patient was declared fit for discharge during which they would remain in hospital and not be counted as a delayed transfer into care.

“This masks the extent of the problem and underestimates the impact on the independence of vulnerable people,” Mr Colman said. He urged the government to develop a policy, “which includes how long it is reasonable for a vulnerable elderly person to remain in a hospital bed awaiting the placement of their choice”.

The Welsh Local Government Association said fewer than a third of delayed discharges were the fault of social care.

Moyna Wilkinson, joint lead director on older people for the Association of Directors of Social Services Wales, said: “It is important that delayed transfers of care are not seen as a problem solely at the point of discharge. Factors such as confidence, isolation, family contacts can be important determinants in health.”

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