Respite care in crisis due to community hospital beds closure

Cuts to hospital beds in the community are having a severe knock-on effect on carers and people needing respite.

That’s the view of Plaid Cymru’s North Wales AM Llyr Gruffydd after new figures revealed a dramatic fall in the number of respite care over the past few years.

Mr Gruffydd said four community hospitals with beds had closed in north Wales during the past four years and said this was a contributing factor in the fall in respite care: “Counties across the North have seen dramatic declines in respite care in recent years. In addition, the number of home adaptations to enable people to stay in their own homes has also fallen by a fifth across Wales, with Wrexham seeing a dramatic decline of 39%.”

His concerns were echoed during ministers’ questions in the Assembly by Plaid Cymru’s shadow health secretary Rhun ap Iorwerth AM. He said that carers were getting a raw deal:

“The Welsh Government takes pride in the fact that social care budgets haven’t been cut to such a degree as they have in England but why, therefore, has the number of adaptations to people’s homes declined by 21 per cent since April 2011? Why has the amount of equipment provided for users of services reduced by 15 per cent over the same period?

“Last year, Carers UK found that 55 per cent of carers in Wales said their own physical health had suffered because of their caring duties. That’s the highest percentage anywhere in the UK. The amount of respite care provided in Wales—the number of nights of care provided in Wales—has dropped a staggering 24 per cent since 2011.

“This has happened at the same time as this Government presided over a programme of closing community hospitals, with an overall decline in the number of NHS beds available in Wales of 7 per cent. These community hospital beds, I need not point out, could have provided a smooth transition for patients back to the community, tackling delayed transfers of care, as well, of course, as providing desperately needed respite care for the army of unpaid carers that keeps our system afloat.

“So will the Minister now admit that the drive to close community hospitals has been a big mistake and that, in the main, and for the sake of strengthening our social care system, it’s time to start reversing that programme?”

The deputy minister did not answer the question.

Mr Gruffydd added that 53 of those beds lost were in Flint, Llangollen, Blaenau Ffestiniog and Prestatyn hospitals: “This loss has placed unreasonable pressures on our district general hospitals, where we now routinely see ambulances queuing up because there are no spare beds in Glan Clwyd or the Maelor. Care is suffering because the Welsh Government is failing to provide a lead on maintaining the level of beds needed in the community.”

Conwy

Year Number of adaptations Number of cases where personal equipment supplied Nights of Respite care provided
2012-13 652 0 5,101
2013-14 621 0 5,332
2014-15 534 0 3,527
% change -18% -61%

 

Flintshire

Year Number of adaptations Number of cases where personal equipment supplied Nights of Respite care provided
2012-13 929 2,196 10,741
2013-14 847 2,170 11,082
2014-15 1,244 2,307 6,222
% change 34% 5% -31%

 

Denbighshire

Year Number of adaptations Number of cases where personal equipment supplied Nights of Respite care provided
2012-13 766 1,491 13,930
2013-14 824 1,828 13,493
2014-15 569 1,410 12,654
% change -26% -5% -9%

 

Wrexham

Year Number of adaptations Number of cases where personal equipment supplied Nights of Respite care provided
2012-13 942 1,069 15,155
2013-14 1,042 1,072 14,945
2014-15 574 982 12,888
% change -39% -8% -15%
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