UK & World News

  • 8 January 2014, 12:37

NHS 'Bed Blocking' Reaches Three-Year High

The number of NHS patients "bed blocking" has reached its highest level in three years.

Statistics show towards the end of 2013 the amount of "delayed transfers of care" were higher than the same period in 2011 and 2012.

In November last year 4,190 people were stuck in hospital despite being well enough to leave.

The main reasons are delays in patient assessments, or aftercare provisions such as nursing home placements or care at home packages.

Two new Medically Fit For Discharge wards (MFFD) were opened last year by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust.

Local GPs make regular visits to the wards, which provide 50 extra beds for patients who are waiting for extra aftercare.

Justine Irish, matron of one of the wards at Rowley Regis Hospital, said: "There is always somebody waiting for an acute bed unfortunately, and one of the soul-destroying things for a nurse or a medic, or anybody working in healthcare, is to see patients in accident and emergency waiting for beds.

"The difference this ward makes is that you know you are our top priority and as such we can look at what the problems are with getting you out, why is it that we couldn't get you out sooner, and what can we do to change that."

Frances Farmer, 90, was admitted to the ward on Christmas Eve.

She said: "I was admitted to hospital at the end of last month, and I went home for a few days, then I was brought back into the hospital, into this ward, and I've been here ever since. It's described as, well, when you come in here you're going home."

In November 2013 more than 20% of NHS patients bed blocking were waiting for "non-acute care".

Another 20% were waiting for assessments to be completed by the NHS or social services.

Just under 14% were still there because they, or their families, did not want them to leave.

The number of "acute" patients staying in hospital despite being well enough to leave is increasing.

Ruth Williams, manager of Integrated Care at Rowley Regis Hospital, says patients should not be admitted to hospital as a knee-jerk reaction and the answer to bed blocking lies in better community care.

She said: "We aim to work to something called a care triangle where most of the population are at the bottom of the triangle self-managing and self-caring.

"At the moment we are admitting far too many people who aren't acutely ill at the top of the triangle ... if we can find the solutions in the community with social services for the middle of the triangle we can avoid people getting to the top of the triangle and then needing to be admitted."

:: All this week Sky News will have live coverage examining the crisis in the NHS. Watch 'A Matter Of Life And Death' on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.

We also want to hear your experiences of the NHS - the good and the bad - tweet us using the hashtag #NHSlifeanddeath

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