'Bed blocking' at Oxfordshire hospitals criticised

An independent watchdog has described the number of unoccupied beds in Oxfordshire care homes as "gravely disconcerting."

On visits over a four-month period the Local Involvement Network (Link) found more than 100 empty beds.

Mary Judge from Link said it did not seem right because care home beds were much cheaper than hospital beds.

In response the council said delayed hospital transfers were not entirely due to a lack of care home places.

Lack of resources

Figures from the council showed 120 people were staying in hospital longer than necessary and about one in five of those were waiting for council-funded care home places to become available.

In a statement the Conservative-run council said: "The existence of an unoccupied bed at any care home does not simply mean that somebody delayed in hospital could be transferred to that bed."

Liberal Democrat councillor Jenny Hannaby, who is on the council committee which looked at the report and is also a trustee of a local nursing home, said delays were caused because a patient's needs had to be fully assessed before they could be moved out of hospital.

She added: "We haven't got the resources and enablement teams to go into hospitals to get these care packages in place."

The Link report also suggested a lack of council funds was having an impact on availability of care home beds.

The report said: "What [care home] managers do make plain is that the rates of local authority reimbursement are a factor in the number of beds left empty."

A council spokesman said: "We will continue to work with colleagues in the health service to tackle the problem."

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