STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

Strength in Numbers dedicated to my late mother Kay

They’re not bed blockers, just older people who want to get home

The NHS is faced with a rising tide of demand for care combined with a tight rein on both NHS and social care finances. The impact of these pressures is seen across the health and care system. It manifests itself obviously in delayed transfers out of hospitals.

Year on year these delays are rising, with more people staying in hospital when they don’t need to be there. It has an impact on the care of some of the frailest and most vulnerable people and is the subject of continued attention from the media, healthcare regulators and politicians. When media and commentators discuss this issue it’s only a matter of time before a certain horrible term is used – “bed blocker”.

The phrase “blocked bed” originated in the UK in the late 50s, driven by hospital clinicians’ concerns about a lack of beds. Its use grew between 1961 and 1967, when the elderly population increased by 14% while bed numbers remained static. In 1986 “bed blocking” made its first appearance in a British Medical Journal headline. Although it was not accepted as a medical term, by the 90s it was being widely used by health economists as a marker of inefficiency.

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