Bed-blocking costs NHS over £11m per month

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Shocking figures just released show that on on a single day last October, across England, there were 5,328 patients spending the day in hospital despite being well enough to be discharged or transferred to social care. In Hampshire (including Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight and Southampton) 247 people were stuck, ready to go home or into 'step-down' social care.

The cost of this to the NHS must be enormous. In England, during the whole month of October 2015, 160,094 bed days were taken up by people who could have gone home. If this is costed at the rate of about £500 per week (probably an underestimate of what it costs to keep a patient in hospital, excluding treatment) this is costing the NHS nationally over £11m per month. Locally in Hampshire, 7856 bed days were not available for other patients that month, probably costing over £500,000.

However it is not just the cost, but the knock-on effect on people waiting for operations or other treatments. We are approaching the busiest time of the year for emergencies as cold weather comes, and people on the waiting list to go into hospital may get the dreaded call “Sorry, we don't have beds available” and finding they have to bear the pain of a bad hip for weeks longer.

Cllr. Faith Ponsonby said "When I was in QA with a broken leg several years ago, I could have gone home 2 days earlier if the new plaster cast had been put on sooner and the various medications from the pharmacy sent up promptly. It was really frustrating for me and several other patients on the ward in the same boat, who were longing to get home. I have a friend now waiting to go into hospital for a scheduled operation in March, who is fearful that she may have to wait even longer if there are no beds."

"I would not want patients sent out of hospital before they are ready, but often they are held up because there can be delays within the hospital, or care is not there at home to support them while they are convalescent. We need much more 'joined-up thinking' between the different departments in the hospital, and also with social care agencies. We need to set up this commission to think again about how best to care for residents from the cradle to the grave."

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson, Norman Lamb, called for a national cross-party commission to tackle this crisis. He said "The NHS and social care face an existential crisis. Demand for services continues to rise year on year but funding is failing to keep up. The position in social care is perhaps even more serious."

"Growing pressures on services are so severe that all parties must come together to fundamentally re-think how we can guarantee the future of the NHS and social care services. The Government cannot avoid this issue any longer. Establishing this commission will show they are serious about protecting these vital public services."