Council tackles social care shortages with ‘Waiting Well’ lists

North Yorkshire Council's County Hall headquarters in Northallerton. Picture: LDRS.

A social care boss has outlined how England’s largest local authority by area is tackling continuing operating pressures by actively managing waiting lists and offering choices.

North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for health and adult services Councillor Michael Harrison said the waiting lists meant people in situations such as being discharged from hospital could receive some of their care needs and alternative provision while the authority worked on finding long-term solutions.

Coun Harrison was speaking ahead of a meeting of the authority’s executive on Tuesday (May 28), which will hear how the authority is working to support individual providers and develop sustainable local care markets as part of a multi-pronged action plan.

An officer’s report to the meeting highlights how the average cost of a care home placement for someone aged 65-plus had increased to £1,098 per week by the end of March, up by £141 per week compared with 2022/23.

At the same time local admission rates for the last financial year remained well above national and regional averages, leading to “sustained demand from hospital discharges”, the report adds.

The report states a range of interventions being introduced by the council has seen increased amounts of support being offered to people to receive care at home and sustained reductions in the use of short-term beds.

Coun Harrison said the council had recently overhauled its approved providers list, leading to inflationary pressures in the rates the authority pays.

He said: “We are seeing costs increase and part of that is an investment in the care sector. The flip side of that is because of pressures in the market, we’re finding more people ending up in short-term care placements which are not necessarily the best outcome for the individual.

“We would like to operate a ‘home first’ approach, where for the vast majority of people, if they are fit enough, home is the right place to be discharged to.

“For a period of time that’s been out of balance, because of the sheer volume of people being discharged from hospital, the health condition of those individuals and the lack of suitable domiliciary care available in the market there has been too many people ending up in short-term residential care.”

Coun Harrison said the council was looking to focus more on safe discharges from hospital to homes, when that is the most appropriate place, to deliver a better result for the individual and long-term result for the council.

He said part of that is making sure the council invests in services to support people to get home and making sure the care sector gets a fair price so they have sufficient resources.

Coun Harrison said the county was still experiencing a hangover from Covid with people presenting in a worse condition to how they were before the pandemic, which impacted on the number of people leaving hospital who need social care.

He said: “We are operating waiting lists for adult social care whereby pre-Covid we didn’t have waiting lists – that’s out of the sheer volume of people who have presented to the health system and being passed on to the council.

“We are reluctantly having to actively manage waiting lists, which we call Waiting Well. This is not a list of people we haven’t got round to providing for, but rather we know what support someone is waiting for and what short-term support they have while they’re waiting for their long-term care to be arranged.

“Waiting Well can include discussions with families to see if they can provide short-term support to bridge the gap until the long-term plan is in place.

“There are some areas of the service where you will naturally wait longer. If someone lives in a particularly rural area where there’s a shortage of social care or someone who needs specialist accommodation they may wait longer.

“We are doing our best to manage the situation the best we can. There has been a slight improvement in the availability of care from 18 months ago, so there’s some light at the end of the tunnel, but at the same time we haven’t had reform of the sector and keep making the case that is necessary.”