As the NHS struggles to cope with increasing demands at A&E departments across the country, Age Concern Luton has voiced alarm at the way the elderly are being blamed for bed-blocking.
Director Colette McKeaveney said: “It’s frightening that A&E is under such pressure locally and nationally.
“But it’s also really unfair that elderly people are being accused of wasting NHS resources – they don’t choose to be ill.
“The issue of adequate support in the community can complicate discharge arrangements because there are so many more senior citizens living at home with serious health conditions, and they need the best care possible.
“Many are reluctant to bother their GP. We don’t want to see sick people so worried about asking for help that they risk becoming seriously ill and having to be admitted anyway.”
Luton & Dunstable spokesman Barry Mayes said before an elderly person can be discharged, they must be declared medically fit, which can only be determined by a consultant.
There are other safeguards in place, such as the hospital’s ‘Meet and greet’ partnership with the charity.
Mr Mayes said: “If a patient lives on their own, Age Concern can arrange to put heating on and make a cup of tea, for example.”
Ms McKeaveney cited one octogenarian who claimed she didn’t need help but was horrified to find her fridge freezer had defosted all over her tiny flat: “She broke down because she realised her strength and confidence were not what they were. We sorted things out, did her shopping and kept an eye on her.”
> Call Age Concern Luton on 01582 456812.