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Out of sight, out of mind?

5 July 2005 - 9:10am

Experts gather at House of Commons to discuss risk of creating 'dumping ground' for elderly

Intermediate care is in danger of becoming a dumping ground for the elderly and the chronically ill, senior health and social care professionals are warning.

The Government's answer to the shortage of acute hospital beds has been to create new intermediate care beds, for people no longer needing acute care, but still unable to return home.

However, the fear is that without the appropriate staffing, these could become little more than a 'dumping ground'.

Phil Gray, chief executive of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP), said. 'At the heart of intermediate care should be the provision of individually tailored active rehabilitation programmes, delivered by a team of specialised multidisciplinary health and social care professionals. Without this, intermediate care is in danger of becoming a dumping ground for patients whose medical needs are not deemed acute enough to merit a hospital bed.'

The elderly and the chronically ill frequently have complex care needs - requiring rehabilitative and medical care, and specialist nursing. Active rehabilitation recognises that in many cases, patients have the potential to make some recovery, and aims to restore the patient as far as possible to their state of health and ability prior to illness.

But the CSP fears that the good intentions behind intermediate care could all too easily become patient neglect. Mr Gray commented 'It is worrying to see that the Government has yet to define either the medical or staffing needs of patients within intermediate care. We have also yet to see how Government plans to tackle the problem of recruitment and retention of physiotherapists and other health professionals specialising in rehabilitation.'

This concern is echoed by frontline chartered physiotherapist, Bhanu Rhamaswamy. A senior I physiotherapist on the Assessment and Integrated Care Scheme (AICS) in Sheffield, Bhanu, welcomes the promise of more physiotherapy training places to help fill the shortfall, but says this is a longer-tem measure.

'Money for intermediate care is desperately needed and I commend the Government for its plans. But Ministers have stated that they are looking for results in the short-term and that just isn't possible, because there are only a certain number of physiotherapists available. What we need are realistic expectations and continued investment, not just a one-off injection of funds.'

Phil Gray added: 'Priority must be placed on actively rehabilitating patients and allowing them to maximise their independence. Otherwise there is the real danger that, although not 'blocking' hospital beds, patients will be deteriorating in so-called intermediate care beds.

'We are therefore calling on the Government to ensure not only that sufficient investment is made in establishing intermediate care services, but that they are created with a central emphasis on active rehabilitation.'

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and trade union body for the country's 39,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants. Physiotherapy is Britain's fourth largest health profession after medicine, nursing and midwifery.

For further information, please contact the CSP press office on 020 7306 6616 / 28

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