New study demonstrates how home care can reduce NHS costs

Olivia Miller
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A new study led by Kent’s Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) has found that higher home care supply in a local authority can significantly reduce the number of delayed transfers of care (DTOC) from hospital, in turn reducing costs to the NHS.

Each extra home care provider in a local authority was found to reduce delayed hospital discharges by 1.6%, creating estimated savings of £12,600 per year for the NHS.

Delayed discharge of patients from hospital to alternative care settings is identified as a longstanding problem in England and elsewhere, having negative implications for patient outcomes and costs to health and social care systems. In England a large proportion of DTOC are attributed to a delay in receiving suitable home care.

As well as record rising cases of Covid-19 and the usual winter pressures that hospitals face, these findings come at a time when there are large concerns over staffing in social care. This includes concerns that discharges will be increasingly delayed from hospital given the workforce issues.

This research published in BMC Health Services Research is the first to formally identify the relationship between home care supply and DTOC in England.

The research team led by Dr Stephen Allan at PSSRU estimated cost savings to the public sector using data from between 2011 and 2016, finding that reduced DTOC due to increased home care provision in local authorities saved between £73m and £274m nationally. The researchers suggest that appropriate levels of social care supply are required to ensure efficiency in spending for the public sector overall.

Dr Allan said: ‘The effect of increasing home care supply over the period analysed likely created savings to the health and social care system. Importantly, these savings do not include any effect on future health and social care outcomes for the individuals no longer delayed in hospital. There is a large body of research which shows that delayed hospital stays also worsen patient outcomes.

‘Our findings are highly pertinent given the recent announcement of increased funding for health and social care from the Government. They raise important policy implications as to the appropriate funding of social care to create efficiency in the overall health and social care system.’

The research paper ‘The influence of home care supply on delayed discharges from hospital in England’ is published in BMC Health Services Research. doi: 10.1186/s12913-021-07206-5