HC Deb 30 March 1999 vol 328 c843
2. Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham)

How many beds are currently blocked in the district general hospitals in west Middlesex and Kingston. [77699]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Hutton)

On 19 March, out of 376 occupied beds at Kingston hospital there were 19 containing patients ready for discharge but still in acute care. In the 319 occupied beds at West Middlesex hospital there were 40 such patients.

Dr. Cable

Does the Minister accept that the considerable problems that those two hospitals have with admissions are being compounded by the fact that the surrounding local authorities, which happen to be respectively Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative controlled, are all having to cut their services for the elderly because of the local government settlement? At a national level, what is his reaction to last week's Age Concern report, written by a leading NHS geriatrician, which said that up to 70,000 additional admissions could be secured if the Government were willing to co-ordinate, with local authorities, effective rehabilitation programmes for elderly patients?

Mr. Hutton

That is exactly the direction of our current work within the Government. We want to reduce delayed discharges, and we are working to that end. Last winter, we spent £209 million in additional money on trying to find better ways of managing discharge from acute hospitals into the community. Many of those schemes operated in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. Nearly £1.5 million was spent in Kingston and Richmond health authority area, and one such scheme benefited 40 patients. We are pursuing the right policies and additional resources are being spent. The new national service framework for older people, which we launched last week, will include an expert task group working specifically to improve discharge arrangements from acute hospitals into the community.