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How can I get my parent home from hospital?

‘Bed blocking’ has become rampant in NHS hospitals. Latest figures suggest that more than 13,000 (13,179) beds a day were taken up on one week in November 2022 by patients who no longer needed one. That is an increase of a quarter compared to the first week of December in 2021.

This is worrying for families, as they fear seeing their loved one going downhill mentally and physically during a prolonged stay in hospital. Most people prefer to get back to familiar surroundings of home as soon as possible, or at least to spend a convalescence period in a care home. And the longer they stay in hospital, the more they risk picking up infections. Add to that the isolation that has been seen through the pandemic, when visitors were prohibited for long periods of time, and there are many good reasons to extract our family members from hospital when they’re ready – and open up the bed to others in more need.

The UK government has realised that this is a problem and has designated some budget to unblocking the system of moving people who need supportive care but not hospital treatment out of their beds to where they can best be looked after.

The new ‘discharge fund’

The result is a £500m Adult Social Care Discharge Fund.

However, the Independent Care Group has described the fund as ‘a small sticking plaster for a gaping wound’. While the extra funding is helpful, says the group, it is likely to be slow to work its way through the bureaucracy to get to the frontline of care delivery. The ICG comments that this funding goes nowhere near the extra £7bn a year that the Chancellor had previously said was needed to meet social care needs.

With funding for social care packages limited and slow to appear, is there anything we as family can do to help get our older relatives out of hospital when they no longer need to be there?

Look at how to make changes at home

If a relative had been living at home, then the ideal is likely to be to return there, albeit possibly with adaptations if they have lost mobility, for example. You can seek advice from organisations such as the RVS, while occupational therapists should be available to assess what changes might need to be made to a home to help someone continue to live independently.

Research private care

Social care is not available to everyone. It is means tested, and many older people have incomes that mean they are not entitled to social care. Even if they would pass the assessment, if you are keen to get your parent home with support from carers, there are many reputable organisations you could approach. We have included some of the registers of care businesses on our Directory page. Choosing the right care provider can prove challenging when you don’t know what you need to ask. We have some tips on what to ask when finding a carer as well as advice on building relationships with live-in carers, if that’s what your relative needs.

Provide the care yourself

Some families are in a position to provide care in the short term at least, which may resolve immediate issues in retrieving a relative from hospital. This would require having the time, the temperament and the proximity to visit a loved one and provide the care they need. There are many questions to be answered about this approach. Who will actually provide the care? Would becoming a carer and cared-for person have negative effects on the relationship? What if the older relative needs more than short-term support? Would it be better to look for sheltered housing or even a care home?

Be ready to take control

Sometimes the problem lies in the indecision of the medical staff about releasing a patient from the hospital, even when their immediate medical challenges have been addressed.

If you have set up a health and welfare Lasting Power of Attorney for your loved one, you will have much greater authority to talk to the hospital and take decisions with or on behalf of your relative. Relying on being next of kin is unlikely to give you any extra leverage.


What does seem clear is that relying on social care packages as the answer to helping older relatives out of hospital may be highly optimistic at this time. Looking at other options may be needed.

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