The dramatic revelations in the Daily Mail that reveal the scale of bed-blocking in our hospitals is 100 times higher than previously thought, will have shocked many.
But families who’ve experienced elderly or vulnerable relatives being admitted to hospital only to be imprisoned there for weeks after their medical needs have been addressed, and desperate to return home, know only too well what an everyday distressing occurrence this is. According to NHS England, in January 2015 (the most recent month published) patients’ discharge from hospital was delayed for 103,776 days. This is the first time the figure has topped 100,000 since records began in 2010. These appalling official figures mask thousands of harrowing tales. Patients are exposed to hospital super-bugs, and suffer mental distress from being isolated from their homes and family for prolonged periods. There are many instances of relatively healthy people filling hospital beds and wards that are desperately needed by medically unfit people who urgently require surgery, therapeutic hospital attention and/or nursing care. On the flip side, these elderly or vulnerable “well” people are usually desperate to leave hospital and may be well enough medically to be discharged but fall into that difficult middle ground where they need some support to be able to resume living at home. Families often try hard to provide that support but it may be beyond their capabilities, they may be working full-time and not available, or there may be no surviving relatives to rally round and external help is required. Bed-blocking causes untold distress to patients and their families and is now estimated to be costing the NHS an estimated £287 million a year. Instances of hospital discharge being delayed stand at more than 1 million days in the last 12 months – a 19 per cent increase on the year before with Labour blaming the intensive cuts the sector has received since 2010. This is yet more evidence – if it was needed – that care will be a key-battleground in the run up to the election in May. According to Department of Health figures, a hospital bed costs the NHS a basic £275 per day without medicines or any other care. When each delayed discharge lasts an average 28 days (in January 2015), the costs quickly escalate. Prestige Nursing + Care is a champion of homecare and knows that this can alleviate the pressures on NHS resources caused by bed blocking. As highlighted in previous blogs, not only is looking after individuals in their own homes more cost effective for the public purse but it also enables patients to be looked after in a familiar and reassuring setting. According to Age UK, older people receiving home care has fallen by 31.7 per cent between 2010-2014, despite an increasing proportion of older people in our population. We call on all the political parties to set out in their manifestos how they will reverse this trend and tackle the bed-blocking crisis in our hospitals.