Failing social care causing health problems, as delayed hospital transfers jump 38%

7 December 2016

  • 40% of disabled adults with a lack of social care report a negative impact on their physical health
  • the same proportion report a negative impact on their mental health
  • delayed hospital transfers caused by social care jump 38% in one year

Julie in her wheelchairLeading UK charity Leonard Cheshire Disability has found that 40% of disabled adults in Britain who report not receiving enough social care have experienced a negative impact on their physical health, and the same proportion (40%) say it has had a negative impact on their mental health[1].

One in 11 (9%) people said they have spent more time in hospital due to ill health as a result of a lack of social care[2].

This comes at a time when the number of people being delayed from leaving hospital because of a lack of social care in the community has jumped 38% so far this year compared to the same period in 2015, NHS England data shows.

A total of 18,159 patients experienced a delayed transfer of care related to social care between January and September 2016. This compares to 13,169 people in the same period a year before — a jump of 38%. Almost a third of all delayed transfers of care in the last year can be attributed to social care[3].

Julie Sharp, 30, West Yorkshire, lives with triple X syndrome which causes mobility and communication impairments. Council funding cuts mean Julie has no emergency care provision and can be left without support if her carer doesn’t show up.

She said:

‘I rely on support with my medication. My condition is one of those that if you miss one dose, I can go in to adrenal crisis, two doses, I can go into adrenal crisis coma, and more missed doses can cause death within 72 hours.

‘When I miss a dose or get it late, I get symptoms like a stroke. A side of my body goes weak and I slur my speech.

‘I am having problems with my care at the moment, which has left me completely disheartened and emotionally exhausted.

‘As well as my medication being given on time, I’m just wishing for a hot meal for my tea, and support to help me shower.’

In its 2016 report The state of social care in Great Britain, Leonard Cheshire Disability says a lack of social care is having a devastating impact on the lives of disabled people, and putting an unbearable strain on our health service.

Leonard Cheshire Disability’s chief executive Neil Heslop said:

‘Social care in our country is completely overwhelmed with rising demand and dwindling resources.

‘Our research shows hundreds of thousands of disabled people are going without vital support to live dignified lives, including those without help to get out of bed, to wash and eat properly. As a measure of our society, this is damning.

‘We’re seeing a significant health cost, both physical and mental, from the lack of social care available — adding considerable pressure to a health service already under strain. Without care in the community to help people live more independently, an increasing number of people are stuck in hospital without the option to leave.’

The evidence is mounting for urgent action. In England, at least 400,000 fewer people are now receiving social care compared to 2009. This is against a backdrop of 1.4 million more working age adults living with a disability compared to 2010.

Public opinion polling by Leonard Cheshire Disability shows social care is important to the British public:

  • 78% of people believe so;
  • over half (53%) think social care is not working well for disabled and older people; and
  • two thirds (66%) think the government do not spend enough money on social care for disabled and older people[4]

In response, the charity is urging the government to rapidly restore the social care safety net which allows millions of disabled people to live and work with independence and dignity by calling for:

  • a national commission to plan how we will meet the growing demand for dignified, person-centered social care, and how this will be funded
  • funding earmarked for social care under the Better Care Fund in 2019/20 brought urgently forward to alleviate the huge pressure facing the social care system now

Media enquiries

Email Afsheen Latif or call 020 3242 0389, or email Theresa Hart or call 020 3242 0290. Out of hours: 07903 949388.

Notes to editors

Research methodology

(a) ComRes polling

In order to understand more about disabled people’s experience of social care, we worked with ComRes to survey 1,032 British disabled adults between the ages of 18 and 65 online between 28 April and 10 May 2016.

(b) Delayed Transfers of Care Data

Number of Patients with a Delayed Transfer of Care at midnight on the last Thursday of the reporting period, Acute and Non-Acute, for NHS Organisations in England by the responsible organisation. Published 10 November 2016.

(c)YouGov polling

YouGov to survey 1,704 British adults about their views on health and social care in Britain. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11 —12 August 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

About Leonard Cheshire Disability

Leonard Cheshire Disability is the UK’s largest voluntary sector provider of services for disabled people. Our services include high-quality care and community support together with innovative projects supporting disabled people into education, employment and entrepreneurship. Worldwide, our global alliance of Cheshire partners supports disabled people into education and employment, and works in more than 50 countries. With over 7,500 staff, the charity supports over 7,000 disabled people in the UK.


  1. ComRes’ polling. All who do not receive enough social care support (n=299) in response to ‘Which of the following, if any, have been negative consequences of your lack of social care support?’.
  2. ComRes’ polling. All who do not receive enough social care support (n=299) in response to ‘Which of the following, if any, have been negative consequences of your lack of social care support?’.
  3. NHS England Delayed Transfers of Care Data.
  4. YouGov polling.