Hospitals could be risking older patients’ health and increasing the likelihood of readmissions by discharging them too early, experts have warned.
Issues surrounding cuts to older people hospital beds have emerged following criticism of the NHS in 2011 for its treatment of older people.
About 172 NHS trusts were questioned about the number of bed closures by the Daily Telegraph.
The paper revealed that out of the 39 trusts which answered 469 beds have been cut since last April, 259 of which were specifically for the elderly.
Dr Ian Donald, policy chair at the British Geriatrics Society and consultant geriatrician at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Trust, said hospital managers were targeting elderly beds for cuts because they were more expensive.
“Hospitals are desperate to cut costs. We are coming under pressure to discharge people or shift people elsewhere perhaps earlier than might be good for them,” he said.
“The main reason is probably financial; they see older people care beds are expensive to run and associate it with stays of a couple of weeks rather than a 50-year-old in for three days.
“You do have to understand there is a person at the end of this, who is shunted around. They will be better served by staying in one place.”
The beds are designated for older patients to meet their extra needs, including getting washed and dressed and helping them with meals. Dr Donald said he estimated they cost twice as much as general medical beds.