CARE firms will get extra cash payments under the latest council plans to keep the elderly out of hospital.
Oxfordshire County Council expects to spend more than £100,000 a year as part of efforts to tackle problems such as bed-blocking.
It contracts care homes and firms which support people at home but often places and home workers are not available quickly enough.
It hopes payments of up to £200 per patient will prevent people going into hospital and delays in discharging them when they can leave. This is called bed-blocking and can lead to delays in A&E and cancellation of planned operations as beds are not available.
The council last year began a pilot which paid home workers different rates for different days in a bid to tackle chronic problems at weekends.
They were paid £75 per patient from Monday to Wednesday, £100 on Thursdays and Fridays, and £150 on Saturdays and Sundays.
But most payments made so far, for 162 people, were for Mondays to Fridays, and just 36 were for weekends, when pressure is highest due to lower staffing levels.
Councillors agreed last week that the rate should be raised to £150 on Fridays and £200 on weekends.
Lead commissioner for older people Ann Nursey said: “There is a need to improve the responsiveness and availability of home support and care home provision across the county.
“This is key to maintaining people’s independence in their own homes, preventing hospital admission, and ensuring timely discharge from hospital.
“Incentive payments are one of the few ways of impacting on the market without the lead-in time associated with a tender.“ She said: “Since the incentives were introduced, the average waiting time for a home support package has decreased.”
And she recommended care homes get the same rates but only in “exceptional circumstances”.
The council has estimated the payments will cost about £105,900 a year.
Since 2011 Oxfordshire has been one the worst areas in England for bed-blocking.
Latest NHS snapshot survey figures, for April 24, show there were 106 people in Oxfordshire in hospital beds who were well enough to go home.
Sue Kent, manager at Newland House care home in Witney, said: “It’s about time that they’ve thought of doing this.
“There are lots of people in hospital that don’t need to be there.
“For care homes with empty rooms this will help a lot – £200 is better than a room sitting empty.”
Council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “The evidence suggests that the responsiveness of companies to put care in place improved on weekdays and there was also an improvement in pick-ups during the weekend, which is positive.
“The county council’s quality monitoring team will keep a close eye to ensure that providers do not consider admittance of a resident before the necessary assessments and staffing resources are in place.”
Our top stories: