Call for action as new NHS data reveals ‘considerable rise’ in bed blocking

The number of days patients are spending in hospitals due to so-called “bed blocking” is at its second-highest figure on record.

New data for England has revealed that people occupying beds when they no longer needed care took up a total of 171,298 days in June.

It marks a considerable rise of more than 30,000 days on June 2015, during which 139,538 days were taken up by the delays.

But NHS England said that, although the figure was still “significant”, it had decreased on the previous month, when it hit a record high.

Bed blocking occurs when someone is medically fit to be discharged, but care has not yet been organised to help them outside of hospital.

The British Medical Association said that the issue – which largely affects the elderly – urgently needed addressing.

Council chairman Dr Mark Porter said: “Problems at the hospital front door are linked to delays at the back door.

“This is because a shortage of social care beds creates ‘exit block’ in hospitals, meaning patients who no longer need to be in hospital can’t be discharged because there is simply nowhere for them to go.

“This, together with a shortage of beds and a shortage of doctors, leads to delays in admissions and patients being forced to wait on trolleys or admitted to an inappropriate ward.”

More than half (59%) of delays were due to the NHS, while the social care sector were responsible for 32% of the delays. Both were responsible for 7.9%, the report said.

An NHS England spokesman said: “Thanks to tremendous efforts by the NHS and social care, the number of delayed transfers of care stopped increasing in June, although there were still a significant number of patients waiting for discharge from hospital.

“It’s important patients who are well enough to leave hospital can do so at the earliest opportunity, and in some parts of the country the system is working well.

“These figures underline the importance of joined-up care within the NHS and the dependence of hospitals on well-functioning social care services – particularly for older people living at home.”

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