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Housing associations 'can help ease pressure on NHS'

Wed 13 Sep 2017

Housing associations have been commended for relieving growing pressure on the NHS.

According to the National Housing Federation (NHF), more than 30 per cent of housing association residents are aged 60 or over or live with a disability.

The body noted that since this demographic is set to grow, housing providers are increasingly working to ensure these people are not stuck in hospital for longer than they need to be.

This, it said, has helped to prevent hospital readmissions and freed up NHS resources so it can deliver its services to those in the greatest need.

Figures from the NHF suggest that treating the growing number of older patients who are "stranded" in hospital is costing the health service around £820 million a year.

As a result, services are "stretched and reaching a tipping point".

However, this pressure is being eased by housing associations taking steps such as providing extra care, health and wellbeing services, investing in home improvements, providing occupational therapists and offering temporary homes to those who cannot go back to their own home straight away.

The NHF pointed out that while many of these initiatives are "small-scale and localised", the cost benefits of extending them more widely would be significant.

Helen Rowbottom, policy officer at the NHF, said delayed transfers of care "come with a huge price tag for the NHS and at a high personal cost for patients".

However, he stated that housing associations have been "hard at work" delivering "innovative schemes" that help the NHS make substantial savings and enable individuals to make a full recovery.

Ms Rowbottom described housing associations as "natural partners" and said they are "ready to do more", playing a part in helping patients get out of hospital and coordinate services in the community.

She pointed out that while these tasks can be time-consuming for hospital staff, housing associations "can do this effectively as landlords and providers of vital care and support services".

Ms Rowbottom added that there is "a strong case for scaling up this work", as the sector is "ready to partner with NHS commissioners to find the best way of doing this and, in the process, reduce pressure on vital but overstretched NHS resources".

Charlotte Cook, a partner at Winckworth Sherwood Solicitors, commented: "The links between housing and health, long promulgated by housing providers, remain key to ensuring suitable accommodation is provided for all.  

"Likewise, bed-blocking, where individuals are unable to return to homes adapted to their needs, is a flag frequently raised flag by NHS providers. This certainly requires ever more joined up (and innovative) thinking by all parties. This should not solely fall to RPs."

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