Delays to patients being transferred out of hospital cost the county council at least £84,500 in fines last year, according to one Lib Dem.
John Ungar, the Lib Dems’ shadow lead member for adult social care at East Sussex County Council, said he was ‘shocked and dismayed’ at what he felt was a ‘waste of money’ at a time when the authority was having to cut millions of pounds from its budget.
Although the fines for the 2015/16 financial year currently total £84,500 this could rise to £92,000, with delays due to difficulties either finding the right nursing or residential place or setting up home care support for patients.
But a spokesman for the county council said it facilitated the discharge of thousands of patients from hospital each year, and only on a relatively small number of occasions did it take time to arrange care for residents with complex needs, something which was a problem nationally.
Cllr Ungar said: “There’s no excuse for this waste of money. They know that residents will need the services, they should not only adequately achieve timely discharge of patents but, where there are shortages of service providers, they should do more to encourage other providers into the local market.
“If then more provision is not available they should look at other options, such as providing these services themselves.”
He called on the Tory administration to ‘get its act together’ to ensure a timely discharge of patients from hospital, and thought they should be lobbying central Government to have the money returned so it could be used to reverse some of the care cuts.
Cllr Ungar also argued that Bill Bentley, lead member for adult social care, should apologise and publish a plan of action, and pointed out that delays had not only cost money, but had also seen patients stuck in hospital for longer than necessary.
He added: “This sorry state of affairs proves that the Conservative controlled East Sussex County Council’s administration is not fit for purpose. Shame on them, they should go.”
A spokesman for East Sussex County Council said: “Each year the council facilitates the discharge of thousands of patients from hospital. On a relatively small number of occasions it takes time to arrange appropriate care for those with complex needs.
“This is a national problem and Government has set up a system for fining all local authorities as a consequence of delays to discharge.
“The county council continues to work with NHS colleagues to address the issue and we have developed a local action plan as part of our Better Care Fund submission.
“This is the pooled budget which is used to invest in integrated community health and social care services to reduce demand for hospital care and support timely discharge.
“The county council also has, with NHS partners, an ambitious East Sussex Better Together programme to transform health and social care to address the challenges of increasing demand for services and improve the wellbeing of local residents.”
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