Audit Commissioners have given a mixed assessment on the performance of public services in Birmingham. Local Government Correspondent Neil Elkes and Public Affairs Correspondent Paul Dale examine the areas where the city’s council and health services are failing or succeeding.
Bed blocking remains a major problem in Birmingham with about 150 people stuck in the city’s hospitals when they are fit enough to go home.
The delays in leaving hospital are among the highest in England with some patients staying three months longer than necessary according to the Audit Commission’s report into Birmingham’s public services released.
Birmingham’s public authorities have been given a damning red flag over bed blocking and told to make major improvements.
Government inspectors have also awarded Birmingham two green flags for excellence for the city’s efforts to tackle global warming and exceeding targets for affordable housing.
But it is the damning verdict on bed blocking, a problem which has troubled the city for more than a decade, which will cause concern.
The Audit Commission report, called Oneplace, said: “This is a problem that needs a joined up solution and requires the council, the primary trusts and hospitals working better together. This issue has been around for many years and has been a priority for improvement.
“Not only has it not been resolved, it is now getting worse.
“Delays don’t just waste public money, they deny hospital care to people who need it and prevent those confined to a hospital bed from enjoying a better life at home or in the community.”
The city’s strategic policy group, Be Birmingham, was quick to point out that steps had been taken to resolve the bed blocking problem since the inspections earlier this year.
Be Birmingham’s NHS executive Sophia Christie said that two new convalescence wards, a sort of halfway house between hospital and community care had been set up to ease the pressure.
She said: “We have come a long way but it is not good enough and that is why we have this red flag.
“We have introduced a range of new services including joint rehabilitation facilities and more rapid social care assessment which are making a real difference.”
The issue was highlighted in the Audit Commission’s first ever Oneplace report which covers all council, police, health and fire services in the city and follows detailed inspections earlier this year.
The city’s health was highlighted as a cause for concern with massive differences in life expectancy between deprived and better off areas, premature mortality in men and some of the highest infant mortality rates in the UK.
Dianne Thomas, Oneplace spokeswoman for Birmingham, said: “Compared with other big cities, Birmingham is a safe place to live. Its streets are getting cleaner and there isn’t as much graffiti or litter as elsewhere.
“The way the city is reducing CO2 emissions is also commendable, as is its support for people who have lost their jobs and for struggling businesses. And partners such as the council and local housing associations are really working well together to make sure that people have the housing they need.
“But, in spite of some recent improvements, procedures for protecting the city’s most vulnerable children are not yet good enough. And more needs to be done to make sure that people don’t stay too long in hospital when they could be back at home.”
The full reports can be seen at www.direct.gov.uk/oneplace