‘Bed Blocker’ Poppy Hasted’s Powerful Letter To David Cameron
Poppy Hasted, 55, from Lambeth, South London, has suffered from multiple sclerosis since 1985.
She was admitted to King’s College Hospital in December 2014 after a pressure sore caused by her wheelchair got infected.
She was fit to be discharged after three weeks but was stuck in hospital for a further four weeks because social services could not arrange appropriate home care.
Here she writes an open letter to David Cameron about the “bed-blocking” crisis…
Dear Mr Cameron,
Yesterday Lord Carter published a review saying hospitals need to find a solution to “bed-blocking” because there are 8,500 patients trapped in hospital per day, taking up beds when they are fit to go home.
The solution is very simple: sort out social care. How do I know? Because I was a bed-blocker.
Last winter I became very ill. I have multiple sclerosis and use a wheelchair. In December 2014 I developed a pressure sore from sitting in my wheelchair. It got infected and I was taken to hospital.
To begin with, hospital was undoubtedly the best place for me.
I needed specialist care and intravenous antibiotics. My dressings needed to be changed three times every day.
But I spent seven weeks there and I was ready to go home three or four weeks before it actually happened.
The tube the doctors used to get the antibiotics into me was removed and I was given tablets instead.
My dressings only needed changing once a day and the district nurses could have visited me at home to do that.
But I continued to lie on the hospital ward, taking up a bed.
I couldn’t be discharged until social services had organised a home care package, so carers could visit me at home every day to help wash and feed me and do some cleaning for me.
Before I went into hospital my two adult daughters were my carers. They had looked after me since they were 12 but the doctors could see it had reached the stage where I needed some professional help.
I needed three visits each day, with two carers each time – a total of 31.5 hours every week – but social services found it nigh-on impossible to arrange for an agency to provide the carers.
So I stayed in hospital and, although it wasn’t my fault, I felt guilty about being there.
I knew I was taking up a bed I didn’t need any more and there was someone else lying on a trolley downstairs in A&E, or at home waiting for an operation, who needed it a lot more than I did.
I wasn’t the only one. During my stay in hospital I met three or four other people who spent longer than they needed on the wards.
One lady was admitted to the same ward just before Christmas and she was definitely there longer than she needed to be because it took them so long to arrange the home help she needed.
I tried to keep my spirits up by chatting to the other patients and making friends.
I paid for television and internet access, which was very expensive.
As the weeks crept by I became increasingly bored and twitchy. Hospital is not the best place for someone to recover once they no longer require constant care.
I missed the outside world and the life I had there. I use the internet to keep in touch with my friends on Facebook and had just started blogging but the internet access in hospital was awful.
I couldn’t go to my favourite coffee shop, or attend the creative writing group I had set up.
Spending Christmas and New Year in hospital was particularly awful. I didn’t feel like I had much to celebrate that year.
When my daughters came to see me I became tearful and told them I couldn’t do this any more.
Luckily for me I am friends with a local councillor so I started ringing him to grumble.
He must have pulled some strings, because within three or four days I finally started to see some progress.
People began coming to see me every other day and I kept on badgering them until they finally made the necessary arrangements and I could be discharged.
It was such a relief to be home but after seven weeks in hospital I had started to feel institutionalised. I found I was hungry at the same time I was used to receiving my hospital meals.
It made me realise there are a lot of people trapped in hospital far longer than I was, people who are old, frail or vulnerable.
Spending so much time in there and becoming institutionalised must make it so much more difficult for them to resume their lives when they finally go home.
I have nothing but praise for the doctors and nurses. They were so nice to me that whenever I go back for an outpatient appointment I always pop up to say hello.
They were dedicated professionals doing their best to help patients but if thousands of beds are being blocked the medics don’t have the tools they need.
It’s all very well for the Government to say it is ring-fencing NHS budgets but the NHS is just one piece of the jigsaw.
If the Government keeps slashing social care budgets, more healthy people will be left in hospital for weeks – or months – longer than needed, while others who are in urgent need of treatment will have nowhere to go. The problem is only going to get worse as our population ages.
The Government needs to stop penny-pinching and start investing. Bed-blocking shouldn’t be allowed to happen any longer.