The NHS is having to fork out millions of pounds every year because of delays in getting elderly patients back into their own homes following a hospital stay, a charity has found.
The average patient needing adaptations to their home, such as new grab rails or ramps, following a stint in hospital is forced to wait in bed for an extra 27 days while improvements are made, charity Age UK said.
Its analysis of NHS data found that last year patients in England spent a total of 40,000 days confined to a hospital bed when they were well enough to go home while waiting for these changes.
These delayed discharge days cost the NHS an estimated £11.2m, the charity said.
“Building all new homes to higher accessibility standards would cost a little more today but it would pay off hugely tomorrow”
It has called on ministers to ensure that all new homes are built to the “lifetime home standard” so they can easily be adapted as people age.
Caroline Abrahams, charity Director at Age UK, said: “Ensuring all new housing can be easily adapted would save the country millions and help end the nonsense of older people lingering for long periods in hospital, simply because of delays in fitting adaptations like grab rails and ramps so they can safely return home.
“Building all new homes to higher accessibility standards would cost a little more today but it would pay off hugely tomorrow, and both older people and the NHS would substantially gain.
“It is worrying that so many older people are living in homes that are hard to adapt and in a poor state of repair.
“It’s time we woke up to the fact that good housing is central to supporting older people to be independent, fit and well.
“Yes, we need a much wider range of specialist housing for older people but as most prefer to remain where they are, it is crucial we do more to make all our mainstream housing fit for the purpose of accommodating our ageing population.”
“This government is getting Britain building to deliver the homes communities want and that meet a variety of different needs”
Housing minister Brandon Lewis said: “This government is getting Britain building to deliver the homes communities want and that meet a variety of different needs. House building is now at its highest level since 2007, with almost half a million new homes, including nearly 200,000 affordable homes delivered since 2010.
“Planning policy already requires local plans to take the housing needs of older and disabled people into account, and we’re changing the rules so that, where there is a local need, councils can set much clearer standards for accessible and wheelchair-adaptable new homes.
“The government has made more than a £1bn available through Disabled Facilities Grants for adaptations, as well as more than £2.26bn Decent Homes funding to bring social homes up to standard which councils can use to meet the needs of local people.
“The Care Act, the £315 million Specialised Housing Fund and our £3.8bn Better Care Fund will also help keep people out of hospital in the first place and get them home more quickly when they are admitted.”