A DAMNING report has concluded a “social care crisis” in Wales is keeping patients in hospital for days longer than needed, and leaving families and unpaid carers in “an impossible position”.

The Senedd’s health and social care committee’s report has called for immediate action to address the amount of time that patients are stuck in hospital after recovering from illness.

The report found that a workforce crisis in the social care sector is resulting in patients staying in hospital for days, or even weeks, longer than necessary.

This, the report found, was causing knock-on delays within hospitals, leading to long ambulance queues outside A&E departments – unable to admit patients to hospital and reducing the number of ambulances able to respond to emergency calls.

The committee found that families and unpaid carers were left in “an impossible position” of either leaving their loved ones in hospital longer than necessary or taking on extra caring responsibilities that they may not be equipped for.

It also found that older people were disproportionately affected by issues around being stuck in hospital beds unnecessarily.

The report looks at Wales' health system as a whole and does not single out any individual health boards or hospitals.

Chairman of the health and social care committee Russell George said: “Behind every delay is a person who has not received the care and support they need to enable them to return home, or to move into appropriate accommodation. 

“This leaves thousands of family members and unpaid carers having to choose between leaving someone in hospital or deciding to take on even more caring responsibilities.  

“Hearing about ambulances queuing outside A&E while people suffering severe injury are left to wait for hours – sometimes with life-threatening consequences - is deeply worrying. 

“But unless radical steps are taken to reform the way in which social care is provided, rewarded and paid for, we are unlikely to see the changes necessary to stop patients being stranded in hospitals. 

“For there to be more than 1,000 people in hospital beds when they could have been discharged is totally unacceptable. The Welsh Government needs to take urgent action to resolve this situation.” 

The Welsh Ambulance Service has been criticised for the long waits some 999 callers have experienced due to a lack of available ambulances.

Jason Killens, chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust told the committee that “considerable amounts of our capacity are unavailable to us” which has led to patients waiting unassisted for “very long periods of time”.

He admitted that “the level of service that we're offering to those patients is unacceptable” and said that the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust was “doing everything we can to improve that.” 

The report noted the Welsh Government and NHS Delivery Unit had led a ‘system reset’ across health and social care services in March 2022, but asked for an update on this by the end of the year.

It also recognised that the Welsh Government was taking action to address the social care workforce issues by running a recruitment campaign and introducing a real living wage for social care workers.

However, the committee called on the Welsh Government to deliver further pay and working conditions reforms to help address the crisis.

The committee also found there was a need for greater understanding of the needs of people with dementia in hospital and how best to support them.

It also called for a trial of set discharge times for people with dementia after hearing several instances where people were discharged from hospital late at night in areas with little or no public transport and told to make their own way home.