Instances of so-called “bed blocking” are in fact rising at an alarming rate at hospitals in Leeds, at a daily cost of £20,000 per bed.
Yet this is not a problem that should be blamed exclusively on a single NHS trust or, indeed, the health service as a whole. Rather, it is a natural consequence of wider issues that have been apparent for many years.
A steady reduction in the number of beds in our hospitals, combined with an ageing population, is a major factor. This is then compounded by the raft of cuts to local authority funding which have seen councils reduce their spending on adult social care at a time when demand is rising.
The result is that council-run care homes in cities such as Leeds have been closing on a regular basis. So, when an elderly patient recovers and responsibility for their care passes from hospital to local authority, the required resources are simply not available.
It is why George Osborne is set to announce in today’s Autumn Statement that local authorities will be given the power to raise council tax by an additional two per cent to help plug the shortfall.
Whilst the rise in itself may be relatively small, it amounts to yet another stealth tax on a public which increasingly finds itself being squeezed by a Government which promised to create a “low-tax”, “high wage” economy.
More curious still is that the Chancellor has chosen to protect public spending on overseas aid, which is set to rise in real terms.
Such largesse abroad and austerity at home makes for an uneasy mix, one which will do little to inspire faith in government policy at a time when the impact of continued cuts is set to become ever more apparent.