Around 50 hospital beds are blocked each day by patients fit to leave at the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust
PUBLISHED: 16:42 09 May 2019
There are 50 patients who are fit to be discharged taking up beds each day at the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust, figures show.
With elderly patients often stuck waiting to be signed off, there is concern over the impact delays can have on their health.
According to the NHS, a hospital stay of more than 10 days for a person over 80 can lead to 10 years of muscle ageing.
NHS England figures show that in February, patients at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust spent a total of 1,398 days waiting to be discharged or transferred to a different care facility.
That's equivalent to more than three-and-a-half years of waiting time.
A delayed transfer of care occurs when a patient remains in a bed after being officially declared safe for transfer by both a doctor and a multidisciplinary team, which could include social or mental health care workers.
The figures show that 83 per cent of the delays were caused by problems within the NHS, like waiting for a bed to open up in a rehabilitation centre or mental health hospital.
A further 17 per cent were caused by problems with social care, such as delays in setting up community care or special equipment at home.
And zero delayed days were because of problems in both sectors.
Delays in transferring a patient between wards, or from one acute hospital to another, are not included.
Independent healthcare charity the King's Fund said that could be many more people who were safe to leave hospital but had not been officially signed off.
The Care Quality Commission said that it recommends a more joined-up approach to health and social care to tackle delays.
A CQC spokesperson said: "There is too much ineffective coordination of local health and care services - leading to fragmented care for older people.
"Our measures would reflect the contribution of all health and care organisations, rather than relying primarily on information collected by acute hospitals."
Phil Luke, Deputy Chief Operating Officer at the trust, said: "Maintaining good flow through hospitals is a challenge across the NHS and locally.
"Organisations across the county, including the RD&E, local GP practices, Devon CCG, Devon County Council and Devon Partnership Trust have an extremely positive, joined up approach to tackling this issue, which has been delivering improved care for local people.
"As a result of close partnership working, as well as targeted investment, more and more people are being treated and discharged on the same day and as a result of local GPs working with our community services and home care providers, an increasing number of patients who become unwell are able to be cared for safely in their own homes, without the need to come into hospital at all."
Across England, an average of 4,546 beds were blocked each day in February, resulting in a total of 127,281 delayed days - equivalent to just under 350 years of lost time.
The rate peaked in February 2017, when 6,660 beds were lost to bed blocking each day, but has fallen steadily since then. Last year, it was 5,013 per day.
At the Royal Devon and Exeter Trust, bed blocking has fallen significantly, from 71 beds each day in February 2018 to 50 this year.
An NHS England spokesperson said: "Thanks to better joint working between hospitals and social care teams, thousands more people were able to return home with the right support quicker after a spell in hospital this winter, freeing up hundreds of beds every day for other patients who need hospital care."